Chovot Halevavot, the classic work on Jewish ethics written by Rabbi Bachya ben Yosef ibn Paquda around 1161 or earlier, and translated into Hebrew from the original Arabic by the famous translator R. Judah ibn Tibbon in 1167. It was first published on the 25th of Tevet in the year 5319 since creation (1559).
Chapter 1 – definition of the wholehearted acceptance of G-d’s unity
Chapter 2 – how many divisions does the subject of unity divide into?
Chapter 3 – whether or not it is our duty to intellectually investigate the matter
Chapter 4 – which premises must we know before we investigate the unity?
Chapter 5 – To clarify the premises which demonstrate that the world has a Creator who created it from nothing
Chapter 6 – how we apply them to establish the existence of the Creator
Chapter 7 – to bring proofs that He is one
Chapter 8 – the distinction between true (absolute) unity and passing (relative) unity
Chapter 9 – demonstration that G-d alone is truly one and nothing else is truly one
Chapter 10 – the Divine attributes ascribed to G-d or denied to Him
Translator’s Summary – summary of the theological proof
The following is a translation of the introduction of one of the earliest of the classic mussar works, Chovos Halevavos by Rabeinu Bahya. The book has inspired many great men to walk in its ways and review it throughout their lives.
In translating this introduction, I heavily consulted the brilliant old-english translation by Rabbi Moses Hyamson O.B.M., the former chief Rabbi and head Dayan of England between 1911 and 1913. I have tried to add classic commentaries and adapt the translation based on those commentaries. Rabbi Yosef Sebag studied in various yeshivas under great Torah scholars such as Rabbi Dov Shwartzman zt’l (~2 years), Rabbi Nachman Bulman zt’l, Rabbi Nissan Kaplan (~5 years). He also completed a degree in physics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and was a research associate in nuclear physics for some time before heading off to yeshiva.
– Yosef Sebag, Jerusalem Sivan 5774 – June 2014
Blessed be the L-ord, G-d of Israel, to Whom true Unity can be fittingly ascribed, whose existence is Eternal, whose beneficence is unceasing, who created all that is found as a sign of His Unity, who formed beings to serve as witnesses of His power and brought new things into existence to testify to His wisdom and great benevolence, as written “one generation shall praise your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts” (Ps. 145:4), and “all Your works shall give thanks to You, O L-ord; and Your saints shall bless You; they shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom, and talk of Your power; To make known to the sons of men His mighty acts, etc” (Ps.145:10-12).
The greatest gift which the Creator bestowed on His servants, human beings, after bringing them out to full perception and complete (mature) understanding – is wisdom, which is the life of their spirit and the candle of their intellect; It brings them to the favor of G-d and saves them from His wrath in this world and the next, as Scripture says “for the L-ord gives wisdom: out of His mouth comes knowledge and understanding” (Prov.2:6); And Elihu said: “but there is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty that gives them understanding” (Job 32:8); And Daniel said: “He gives wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding” (Daniel 2:21), and “I am the L-ord your G-d who teaches you for your benefit, who leads you by the way that you should go” (Isaiah 48:17).
Wisdom falls into three divisions.
The first division is the science of nature, called in Arabic, “Al-Ilm al-tibi”. This branch of knowledge deals with the essential and incidental properties of material bodies.
The second division consists of the practical sciences, called in Arabic, “Al-Ilm al-riazi”. These comprise arithmetic, engineering, astronomy, and music.
The third division, called in Arabic, “Al-Ilm al-ilahi”. is the science of theology, which deals with the knowledge of G-d, knowledge of His torah, and other [spiritual] things, such as the soul, the intellect, and spiritual beings.
All these divisions of wisdom, and their respective branches, are gates which the Creator has opened for men through which they may attain [a comprehension] of religion and of the world. Only that some sciences are more needed for religious matters while others are more needed for secular interests.
The sciences whose use is closest to worldly matters is the science of nature, which is the lowest science and the practical science, which is second. These two sciences instruct on all the secrets of the physical world, its uses and benefits, its industries and trades and is conducive to physical and material well-being.
The science which is most needed for religion is the highest science – Theology. We are under duty to study it in order to understand and obtain a knowledge of our religion. But to study it in order to attain worldly benefits is forbidden. Our teachers said (Nedarim 62a): “[expounding the verse:] ‘to love the L-rd your G-d, to hearken to His voice, and to cleave to Him’ [This means] that one should not say, ‘I will read Scripture that I may be called a scholar.’ I will study [mishna], that I may be called Rabbi, I will study [Talmud], to be an Elder, and sit in the assembly [of elders]; but learn out of love, and honor will come in the end.”. And “Do [good] deeds for the sake of their Maker, and speak of them [words of torah] for their own sake. Make not of them a crown wherewith to magnify yourself, nor a spade to dig with” (ibid). And “‘Fortunate is the man that fears the L-ord, that delights greatly in His commandments’ (Ps. 112:1), R. Eleazar expounds thus: ‘In His commandments’ but not in the reward of His commandments. This is just what we have learnt. ‘He used to say, Be not like servants who serve the master on the condition of receiving a reward; but be like servants who serve the master without the condition of receiving a reward.'” (Avodah Zara 19a).
The avenues which the Creator has opened for the knowledge of His law and religion are three.
The first is a [sound] intellect which is free of any damage.
The second, the book of His law revealed to Moses His prophet.
The third, the tradition which we have received from our ancient Sages who in turn received them from the prophets, peace be unto them. The great Rabbi Saadia of blessed memory already discussed on this avenue to a sufficient extent.
Furthermore, the science of the torah falls into two divisions.
The first aims at the knowledge of the duties of the limbs (practical duties) and is the science of external conducts.
The second deals with the duties of the heart, namely, its sentiments and thoughts, and is the science of the inner life.
The duties of the limbs likewise fall into two divisions.
The first consists of precepts which reason would have dictated even if the torah had not made them obligatory.
The second, precepts received on the authority of Revelation which reason neither obligates nor rejects such as the prohibition of milk with meat, shaatnez (garments woven of wool and flax), kilaim (sowing diverse seeds together), and similar precepts whose reason for being prohibited or obligatory is unknown to us.
The duties of the heart, however, are all rooted in rational principles, as I will explain with G-d’s help.
All the precepts are either positive commandments or negative commandments. We do not need to explain this for the duties of the limbs because these are universally known. I will, however, with G-d’s help, mention of the positive and negative commandments of the duties of the heart to serve as examples of those not cited.
Among the positive commandments of the duties of the heart: to believe that the world had a Creator who created it from naught, that there is none like Him, that we acknowledge His Unity, that we serve Him in our hearts, that we reflect on the wonders of His works, that these may serve as evidences of Him, that we place our trust in Him, that we humble ourselves before Him, that we revere Him, that we fear and feel abashed when we consider that He observes our outer and inner being, that we long to do His will, that we devote our acts to His Name, that we love Him and those that love Him in order to come close to Him, that we hate His enemies, and similar duties which are not visible by the senses.
Negative commandments of the duties of the heart are the converse of those just mentioned. Also included among them: to not covet, avenge, nor bear a grudge; as written “you shall not avenge nor bear a grudge” (Levit. 19:18).
Among them, that our minds not muse on [doing] transgressions, nor desire them, nor resolve to do them and other similar things which are hidden in a man and observed by none but the Creator, as written “I the L-ord search the heart, I test the mind” (Jer. 17:10) and “the candle of G-d is the spirit of man, searching all the inner depths of the heart” (Prov. 20:27).
As the science of the torah deals with two parts, external and inward commandments, I studied the books of our predecessors who lived after the [compilers of the] Talmud. They composed many works dealing with the precepts. In the expectation of learning from them the science of inward religion, I found, however, that all that they intended to explain and clarify fall into three categories.
The first, to explain the Torah and the books of the prophets, and this is in one of two ways, either explaining the words and subject matter, as did Rabeinu Saadya, of blessed memory, in his commentaries of most of the books on Scripture. Or to explain the language and grammar, grammatical forms and usages in all their varieties, as well as paying heed to accuracy of the text, like the books of Ibn Ganach, the Massorites, and their school.
The second, to compile the explanation of the commandments into summary form, such as the work of Rav Chefetz ben Yatzliach of blessed memory. Or of only the commandments which apply today such as Halachot Pesukot, Halachot Gedolot, and similar collections; or of special topics as the Geonim did in their Responsa on practical duties and in their decisions.
The third, to confirm our faith in the matters of torah in our hearts through logical proofs and refutation of heretics like the book of Emunot (of Rabbi Saadia), the Sharashei Hadat, the Sefer Mekametz and similar works.
I examined these writings but failed to find among them a book specially devoted to the inner wisdom. I found that this wisdom, which is the duties of the heart, had been entirely neglected. No work had been composed, systematically explaining its roots and branches.
I greatly wondered about this, and thought to myself, perhaps this class of duties is not obligatory from the torah but is only an ethical obligation the aim of which is to teach us the proper and just way. Possibly it belongs to the class of extra practices that are optional, for which we will not be held accountable for them nor will we be punished for neglecting them. And therefore, our predecessors omitted to write a special book on them. I investigated the Duties of the Heart from Reason, Scripture, and Tradition (talmud,midrash,etc.) to inquire whether or not they are obligatory and found that they form the foundation of all the precepts, and that if there is any deficiency in their observance, no external duties whatsoever can be properly fulfilled.
First the arguments from Reason. It is already familiar that man consists of body and soul. Both are among the benefits G-d has bestowed on us. One of these elements of our being is visible and the other is invisible. Therefore, we are accordingly under duty to render the Creator visible and invisible service. The outward service is the observance of the duties of the limbs such as praying, fasting, giving charity, learning the torah and teaching it, making a Sukka, waving a willow branch (on the festival of Sukkot), Tzitzit, Mezuza, Maake, and similar precepts whose performance is completed by the physical limbs.
Inward service, however, consists of the fulfillment of the Duties of the Heart such as: to acknowledge the Unity of G-d in our hearts, believe in Him and His torah, to undertake His service, that we revere Him and humble ourselves before Him, that we love Him, trust in Him, and give over our lives to Him, that we abstain from what He hates, devote our actions to His Name, that we reflect on the benefits He bestows, and similar things which are performed by the thoughts and sentiments of the heart but do not associate with activity of the visible limbs of the body.
I am certain that [even] the duties of the limbs cannot be performed properly unless they are accompanied by will of the heart, longing of the soul to do them, and desire of the heart to perform them. If it should enter our mind that we are under no obligation to choose the service of G-d and to yearn for it, then we would be exempt from the duties of the limbs for no act can be complete without the agreement of the soul. And since it is clear that the Creator has put us under obligation to perform the duties of the limbs, it would not be reasonable for us to suppose that our soul and heart, the choicest parts of our beings, should have been exempted from serving Him according to the extent of their ability, because their cooperation is required for the complete service of G-d. Therefore, it is clear that we are under obligation to perform outward and inner duties so that our service to the blessed Creator will be whole and complete, including both our inner and outer being.
After their obligation has become clear to me from the grounds of Reason, I said to myself “perhaps this matter is not written in the torah, therefore they refrained from writing a book which instructs on it and demonstrates it.”
But when I searched in the torah, I found that it is mentioned frequently. For example (Deut. 6:5-6): “you shall love the L-ord your G-d with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might; And these words, which I command you this day, shall be on your heart”, and “so that you may love the L-ord your G-d, and that you may hearken to His voice, and that you may cling to Him” (Deut. 30:20), and “to love the L-ord your G-d and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut. 11:13), and “You shall walk after the L-ord your G-d and fear Him” (Deut. 13:5), and “you shall love your fellow as yourself” (Levit.19:18), and “now, Israel, what does the L-ord your G-d ask of you, but to fear the L-ord your G-d” (Deut. 10:12), and “Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deut. 10:19). And reverence for G-d and love for Him are among the duties of the heart.
Regarding the negative commandments [of the duties of the heart], the torah wrote: “nor shall you covet etc” (Deut. 5:18), “You shall not avenge, nor bear any grudge” (Levit. 19:18), “You shall not hate your fellow in your heart” (Levit. 19:17), “and so that you do not seek after your own heart and your own eyes” (Numbers 15:39), “you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor fellow” (Deut. 15:7), and many other similar passages.
Afterwards, the Torah reduced all [religious] service to the service of the heart and tongue in saying “For this commandment which I command you today is not hidden from you, neither is it far off; It is not in Heaven…But the matter is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it” (Deut.30:11). And in the other books of the prophets, they spoke extensively on the matter and mentioned it in several places. I do not need to mention them because they are numerous and well-known.
After it had become clear to me that the duties of the heart are obligatory from the Torah and from reason, I searched the matter in the writings of our Sages. I found it to be even more explicit in their words than what is explained in the Torah and derived from reason. Some of them are stated as general principles such as “G-d wants the heart” (Sanhedrin 106b), and “the heart and the eyes are the two agents of sin” (Yerushalmi Berachos 1:5). Some of them in Tractate Avos, which there is no need to elaborate. I also found many in their traits and habits when they were asked about them as written regarding “to what do you attribute your long life?” (Megila 27b).
I found in the Torah regarding one who kills someone unintentionally, no capital punishment is incurred. Likewise, one who performs a sin unintentionally which if intentional would incur either capital punishment or the penalty of Karet (excision), the person had only to bring for them a sin-offering or an asham offering. All this is a clear proof that the essential condition of liability for punishment is the association of mind and body in a forbidden act, the mind by its intention, and the body by its movement.
So too our wise men said: “whoever performs a religious duty but did not intend to do it for the sake of G-d – he will not receive reward for it.”
And since the hinge and pillar of all deeds rests on the foundation of intention and hidden sentiment of the heart, a system of the duties of the heart should precede, by nature, a system of the duties of the limbs.
After it had become clear to me through Reason, Scripture, and Tradition that the inner science is indeed an obligation, I said to myself, “perhaps this class of commandments are not obligatory at all times and at all places, similar to shmita, yovel (jubilee year), and [temple] offerings”.
But when I delved deeper into the subject, I found that we are obligated in them constantly, without pause, throughout our lives, and that we have no claim (excuse) whatsoever for neglecting them. This applies to such duties, for example, as acknowledging the Unity of G-d in our hearts, to serve Him inwardly, to revere Him and to love Him, to yearn to fulfill the commandments obligatory upon us, as Scripture says “O my hope is that my ways are directed to observe Your statutes” (Ps. 119:5); to trust in Him and surrender ourselves to Him, as written “trust in Him at all times, pour out your heart before Him” (Ps.62:9); to remove hatred and jealousy from our hearts, to separate from the superfluous worldly matters which preoccupy us away from the service of G-d – we are under constant duty in all of these things, at all times and in all places, every hour, every second, and under all circumstances, as long as we have life and reason.
The analogy of this is to a slave whose master charged him with two jobs. One in the house and the other in the field. The latter consisted of cultivating the ground and its care at definite periods and times. When those times are past or if he is unable to work there due to some thing which impedes him, he is then to be relieved of his responsibility for the work in the field. But he is never exempt for the work which he is commanded to do in the house, provided there is no impediment or other matter he must tend to. Hence, he is constantly charged to work the house when he is free to do so.
Such too is the case for the duties of the heart which are always binding upon us. We have no excuse for their neglect, and there is nothing which impedes us in their fulfillment, except for love of this world, and lack of understanding in regard to our Creator, as written “they do not consider the work of G-d” (Isaiah 5:12).
I said to myself, “perhaps this class of commandments does not branch out to many commandments. Therefore, they abandoned them and did not compose a book specially devoted to them”.
But when I investigated, on their number and derivatives, I found their derivatives to be exceedingly numerous until I thought that what David, peace be unto him, said “I have seen a limit to all perfection, but Your commandment is exceedingly broad” (Ps. 119:96) was referring to the Duties of the Heart. Because, the Duties of the Limbs are a known number, namely, 613. But the Duties of the Heart are exceedingly numerous until their derivative branches are countless.
I further said: “perhaps they are so clear and familiar to everyone, and every person clings to them that a book on the subject is unnecessary”. When, however, I studied the conduct of human beings throughout the ages as recorded in books, I found that they are far from [the knowledge or practice of] this class of commandments, with the exception of some zealous individuals, special elect of them, according to what is recorded about them. But as for the rest, how much were they so in need of exhortation and instruction! And all the more so, for most of the people in our generation, who neglect even the commandments of the limbs, not to mention the commandments of the heart. And if any one of them is roused to devote himself to the study of the Torah, his motive in this is to be called a “wise man” by the masses, and to gain for himself a name among the great. And thus he strays from the way of the Torah to things which will neither aid him in ascending spiritually, nor save him from spiritually stumbling. And he studies unnecessary things the ignorance of which he would not be punished, while he omits to investigate the roots of the religion and the foundations of the Torah, which he should not have ignored nor neglected and without the knowledge and practice of which, no commandment can be properly fulfilled. For example, regarding acknowledging the Unity of G-d, (the question arises) whether we are under duty to examine this by the light of reason or whether it is sufficient if we accept it by tradition alone, namely, that we declare like the simpleton and the fool that “G-d is One” without argument or proof. Or, if we are under duty to investigate through rational inquiry the distinction between true Unity versus relative unity, so as to distinguish [the Unity of G-d] from other existing unities which we call “one”.
On this the believer is not permitted by our religion to remain in ignorance, for the Torah exhorts us on this in saying “Therefore, know this day and consider within your heart, that the L-ord is G-d in Heaven above and on the earth below. There is none other” (Deut. 4:39).
The same is the case for other commandments of the heart which we have mentioned already or will mention. The believer’s faith will not be complete until he knows these duties and practices them. They are the inner science, the light of the heart, and the shining of the soul. On this Scripture says: “Behold, You desired that truth be in the hidden places, and in the concealed part You teach me wisdom” (Ps. 51:8).
It is said of a Sage who would pass the first half of the day in the company of other people. But when he was alone, he would call out “O for hidden light”, by which he referred to duties of the heart.
One of the wise men was consulted regarding a strange case on the laws of divorce. He replied to the inquirer: “you are asking on what will not harm you if you do not know it. Do you already know all that you are under duty to know of the commandments, and that you are not allowed to neglect, and that you should not be negligent of, that you turn to speculate on remote questions which will not avail you of any advancement, nor fix any crookedness in your soul. Behold, I swear, it has been 35 years that I have occupied myself with what is essential to the knowledge and practice of the duties of my religion. You are aware of my great in-depth study and the great library of books I possess. And yet, I have never turned my mind to the matter to which you have directed your attention and about which you inquire.” And he continued to rebuke and shame him concerning the matter.
Another Sage said “I learned to purify my deeds for 25 years.”
A third Sage said “there is wisdom which lies hidden in the hearts of the wise, like secret treasure. If they conceal it, man cannot discover it. If they reveal it, man cannot deny the correctness of their words regarding it. And this is as Scripture says “wisdom in the heart of man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out” (Prov. 20:5), i.e. wisdom is innate in a man’s being, in his nature and faculties of perception, like water that is hidden in the depths of the earth. The intelligent and understanding individual will strive to investigate what is in his potential and inward faculties in order to discover and expose this wisdom, and will draw it forth from his heart, just as one searches for water that is in the depths of the earth.
I once asked a man who was considered among the Torah Sages concerning some of the topics we mentioned regarding the inner wisdom and he replied that on this and similar things, the tradition is sufficient to stand in place of rational inquiry.
I said to him: “This applies only to those who lack the ability to inquire due to low powers of perception and weakness of understanding, such as women and children, or feeble minded persons (Translator: women used to be much less educated than in our times). But a man who has sufficient power of intellect and perception to attain certainty on the truth of Tradition, and he neglected to investigate this due to laziness or due to holding in light esteem the commandments of G-d and His Torah – certainly he will be punished for this and he sins for having neglected them.
This matter is similar to [the following illustration]. An officer was charged by the king to receive money from the officials of his kingdom. The king gave him special instructions to count the coins, weigh them, and verify their quality. The officer was sufficiently intelligent and skilled to fulfill all that the king had commanded him. But the royal servants cunningly befriended him with words until he trusted in them. They brought the money to him and assured him that it was correct in amount, weight, and quality. He believed them and was too lazy to verify for himself the truth of their words thereby transgressing the king’s orders. When the matter reached the king, he ordered that the money be brought before him. When the king questioned the officer as to the total count and weight of the money, he could not answer. Though the amount of money may have been correct, the king condemned him for having been lax in his command in relying on the words of the servant in something he could have obtained certainty for himself. Only if he was not skilled enough to make an accounting, would he not have been found guilty for relying on the servants.
So too, if you were not capable of grasping this subject with your reasoning faculties, as is the case regarding reasons for received commandments, then your excuse for refraining from this inquiry would be valid. Likewise, if your mind falls short and your perception is too weak to understand it, you would not be punished for your neglect, and you would be considered like children and women, who accept it from the Tradition. But if you are a man of intellect and understanding, who is capable of obtaining certainty on what you have received from the Sages and prophets regarding the roots of the religion and the pivots of the deeds, you are then commanded to use your intellect until you comprehend the matter so that it will be clear to you from both tradition and Reason. But if you ignore this and are negligent in it, you will be considered as falling short in your duties to the blessed Creator.
This will be explained in two ways.
Firstly, from what Scripture says “if there arise a matter too hard for you in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, between affliction and affliction…and you shall do according to the sentence which they declare to you” (Deut. 17:8-10). If you examine what subjects are included in the first verse, you will find they are things which need to be detailed, distinguished, and discussed by the method of Tradition, and not by that of logical demonstration from Reason alone. You can see, the verse does not include matters which can be attained through Reason. For he did not say, for example, “when you have a question on the Unity of G-d”; or regarding the Names and attributes of the Creator, or as to any of the roots of the religion, such as the service of G-d, trusting in Him, submission before Him, devoting activities to Him, purifying conduct from the damage of detrimental things, repentance from sins, fear and love of Him, being abashed before Him, making a spiritual accounting, and similar duties which can be fulfilled through reason and recognition. He did not say to accept them on the authority of the Torah Sages and to rely only on the Tradition. On the contrary, Scripture says in regard to these to reflect on them to your heart and to apply your intellect on them after having first accepted them from the Tradition, which covers all the commandments of the Torah, their roots and branches. You should investigate them with your intellect, understanding, and judgment, until you will sift the truth of it from the false [notions], as written “therefore, know this day and consider it within your heart, that the L-ord, He is G-d” (Deut. 4:39).
Likewise, we will say regarding all that we are capable of grasping by Reason, as our Sages said (Rabbi Yishmael’s 7th rule of expounding the Torah) “if anything included in a general proposition is made the subject of a special statement, whatever is proclaimed of that special statement is not to be understood as limited to itself, but is applied to the whole of the general proposition”. Knowing the Unity of G-d is but one branch of the topics which can be understood by Reason. And as it is our duty to use this method on this topic (of G-d’s Unity), it is equally our duty to do so with all of them.
The second argument is drawn from Scripture says: “Have you not known? Have you not heard, that the everlasting God” (Isaiah 40:28). It says “known” which implies knowledge from rational proofs, and afterwards “heard” which implies from the Tradition. And likewise, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning?” (Isaiah 40:21). The prophet preceded mentioning knowledge from rational proof to knowledge which is from received tradition. And likewise Moses, our teacher, said: “Do you thus requite the L-ord, Oh foolish and unwise people? Is He not your Father who acquired you? Has He not made you and established you? Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations. Ask your father, and he will show you; your elders, and they will tell you.” (Deut. 32:6). This is a proof to what we mentioned, that despite that the Tradition should be preceded by nature, for the students must learn it first, nevertheless, it is not right to rely solely on it for one who is able to comprehend it by the method of rational demonstration. It is therefore proper, that everyone who is capable of this, is under duty to investigate with his intellect and to bring logical proofs of it by the demonstration which deliberate judgment would support.
After I had become convinced that the commandments of the heart are indeed obligatory, and that, on grounds we mentioned, we are obligated in them, I found that these duties had been neglected and that no book had been composed specifically on them. I contemplated on the condition of low observance of them from my contemporaries due to their inability to comprehend them, and hence, all the more so, were they unable to perform them or toil in them. I was stirred by the grace of G-d to inquire into the inner science.
I also noticed from the practice of our Sages, and from their sayings that we have received, that they were more zealous and engaged in their personal duties than in developing inferences of laws and remote, doubtful questions.
Their efforts were first spent on determining the general principles of judgment, to make clear what is permitted and what is forbidden.
Afterwards, they busied and strove to clarify their active obligations and inward duties. If a strange case came before them that belonged to the class of inferences from existing laws, they investigated it at the time it was presented to them, and deduced the law from the principles known to them. But they never troubled their minds for these things before this for they regarded secular matters lightly.
And when they needed to render a ruling on that matter, if the ruling was clear to them from the Tradition transmitted to them by the prophets, they would rule on that basis. If it was a question which required expounding the Tradition, they would investigate it with the light of reason. If they all agreed together, they would give a ruling. But if there was a disagreement on the ruling, they would rule according to the majority opinion, as written by the Sanhedrin (Talmud Sanhedrin 88b): “when a question was posed to them, if they had a tradition on it, they gave the decision right away. If they differed, they took a vote. If the majority ruled the thing was clean, it was declared clean. If the majority ruled it unclean, it was declared unclean. This was according to the principle they received ‘the decision follows the majority'”. They composed in Tractate Avot, the traditions of the moral principles and ethical standards of the Rabbis as taught by each of them in his time and place.
The reports of the men of the Talmud regarding their teachers, are enough to demonstrate the depth of their wisdom and great toil in purifying their deeds. For instance (Berachot 20a): “Said R. Papa to Abaye: How is it that for the former generations miracles were performed and for us miracles are not performed? It cannot be because of their [superiority in] study, because in the years of Rab Judah the whole of their studies was confined to Nezikin (the mishna order of monetary damages), while we study all six Orders…And yet when Rab Judah drew off one shoe, rain used to come, whereas we torment ourselves and cry loudly, and no notice is taken of us! He replied: The former generations used to be ready to sacrifice their lives for the sanctity of [G-d’s] Name; we do not sacrifice our lives for the sanctity of [G-d’s] Name”, and (Avodah Zara 17b): “he who only studies the Torah, is like a man who is without a G-d, as it is said (Chronicles II 15:3) ‘Now for long seasons, Israel was without the true G-d’. Hence, Torah study must be combined with acts of kindness”.
Thus it became clear to me that all the roots of deeds which one intends for His Name are founded on purity of heart and mind and singleness of mind. Where the motive is tainted, good deeds, however numerous and diligent, are not accepted; as Scripture says “even when you make many prayers, I will not hear. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes; cease to do evil” (Isaiah 1:16). And, “but the matter is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it” (Deut. 30:14), and “give Me your heart, and let your eyes keep My ways” (Prov. 23:26). And our wise men have said: “if you give Me your eyes and heart, I know that you are Mine” (Yerushalmi Berachos 1:5); and Scripture says “you shall not wander after your hearts and after your eyes” (Numbers 15:39), and “with what shall I come before the L-ord and bow myself before G-d on high? Shall I come with Olah offerings?” (Micha 6:6), and the answer given was “He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the L-ord demands of you; but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your G-d” (ibid 6:8); and “but let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the L-ord doing kindness, justice, and righteousness” (Jer. 9:23). The explanation is that a man who glories should glory in comprehending G-d’s ways, recognizing His beneficence, reflecting on His creation, realizing His might and wisdom, as manifested in His works. All these verses which I have brought are proofs on the obligatory character of the commandments of the heart and the discipline of the soul.
You should realize that the aim and value of the duties of the heart is that our exterior and interior be equal and consistent in the service of G-d, so that the testimony of the heart, tongue, and limbs be alike, and that they support and confirm each other instead of differing and contradicting each other. This is what Scripture calls “tamim” (innocent/perfect), in saying: “You shall be perfect with the L-ord your G-d” (Deut. 18:13), and “Noah was a righteous man and perfect in his generations” (Gen. 6:9), and “he who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart” (Ps. 15:2), and “I will give heed unto the way of integrity..I will walk within my house with a perfect heart” (Ps. 101:2).
On the other hand, one whose inner [being] is not consistent with his outer [life] is condemned by Scripture, as written: “his heart was not whole with the L-ord, his G-d” (Kings 11:4), and “but they flatter Him with their mouths and lied with their tongues. For their heart was not steadfast with Him” (Ps. 78:36).
It is well known, that whoever exhibits conflicting or contradictory behavior in word or deed – people do not believe in his integrity and have no confidence in his truthfulness. Likewise, if our exterior conflicts with our interior, if our heart’s intent conflicts with our words, if our physical activities are not consistent with the convictions of our soul – our service to our G-d will not be whole, for He will not accept from us fraudulent service, as written “I cannot [bear] iniquity with assembly” (Isaiah 1:13), and “For I am the L-ord, Who loves justice, hates robbery in a burnt offering” (Isaiah 61:8), and “if you offer a blind [animal] for sacrifice, is it not evil? And if you offer the lame and the sick, is it not evil? Bring it now to your governor. Will he accept you, or lift up your face” (Malachi 1:8), and “Behold, to obey is better than a peace-offering; to hearken (is better) than the fat of rams” (Samuel 15:22).
Hence, one commandment, according to the heart and intent with which it is performed, can outweigh many commandments, and likewise one transgression can outweigh many transgressions. Even the thought to do a commandment and the yearning to do it out of reverence for G-d, despite that one was unable to actually perform it, may, nevertheless, outweigh many commandments performed without this reverence, as G-d said to David: “because it was in your heart to build a house for My Name” (Chronicles II 6:8), and “then the G-d fearing men spoke to one another, and the L-ord hearkened and heard it. And a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who feared the L-ord and for those who thought upon His Name” (Malachi 3:16), and our Sages expounded the last words (Shabbat 63a): “what is meant by ‘thought upon His Name?’ – [answer:] “if one intended to fulfill a commandment but was prevented from doing it, it is accounted to him as if he had done it.”
When these arguments from Reason, Scripture, and Tradition dawned on me, I began to train myself in them, and I undertook on myself the task of knowing and practicing them. The discovery of one principle revealed another related to it, which in turn led to a third, until the matter became broad and it was difficult for me to retain it always in mind. I feared that I might forget what I had already thought out, and that what had become solid shaped in my mind might dissolve, especially since in our times there are so few helping on this wisdom. I decided to compose a book on them which would include their roots and surrounding divisions, and much of their derivatives; and so I would always urge myself to know them and obligate myself to do them.
Where my practice was consistent with my words, I thank G-d who helped me in this, and taught me His ways. But where my practice was inconsistent with my words and fell short of attaining this, I blame and rebuke my soul, and argue with it, so that from the standard of righteousness set forth in this work, my soul might realize its own iniquity, and from its standard of justness, its own deviation, and from its uprightness, its own perverseness, and from the perfection there taught, its own short-comings.
I saw proper to make the book one of permanent value, a hidden treasure, a lamp to illuminate men’s paths and teach them the path in which they should go. I hoped that the book would be of still greater use to others than to myself, and of greater beneficial instruction to others than to my own benefit of fulfilling my wish.
I said to myself that I will compose a book on this subject that would be systematically divided according to the roots of the duties of the heart and the inner commandments; be comprehensive and adequate to the matters, point out the good and right way; serve as a guide to the customs of the earlier Sages and the discipline of the pious; awaken men from their senseless sleep; delve in detail into the depths of this wisdom; recall to men the knowledge of G-d and of His Torah, promote the salvation of the soul; encourage the observant, stir up the negligent, set the eager on the right road, straighten the early, guide beginners and show the way to the perplexed.
But when I thought of proceeding to carry out my decision to write this book, I saw that a man like myself is not fit to compose a work like this. I estimated that my strength was insufficient to properly divide its parts, the subject appearing too vast to my eyes, my knowledge too inadequate, and my intellectual faculties too weak to grasp the topics. Furthermore, I am not proficient in the subtleties of the Arabic language which it would need to be in, due to this being the easiest language for most of my contemporaries to grasp. I feared that I would be toiling at a task which would only serve to demonstrate my deficiencies and that I would thus be exceeding proper bounds of discretion. I therefore, told my soul to retract the thought and to draw back from what it had resolved on.
When I then decided to relieve myself of the burden of this undertaking and give up my plan of composing this work, I again suspected my soul of having chosen tranquility, to dwell in the abode of laziness, in peace and quiet. I feared that perhaps this decision to abandon the project stemmed from the lust for pleasure, and that this is what had inclined me to the way of peace and tranquility, to decide to abandon this in order to sit in the company of laziness.
I knew that many great works were lost due to fear, and many losses were caused by concern. I remembered the saying: “it is part of prudence not to be overly prudent”. I told myself, if every person who ever composed a good work or who ever taught the upright and proper path had waited until all his wishes were fulfilled, no person would have ever uttered a word after the prophets, whom G-d had chosen as His agents and strengthened with His divine help. If every person who had wished to attain all good qualities but was unable to attain them, had abandoned whatever he could attain of them, then all human beings would be devoid of all good and lacking all excellencies. They would have been perpetually pursuing after false hopes, the paths of righteousness would have been desolate, and the abodes of kindliness would have been abandoned.
I understood that while men’s souls lust greatly to attain evil ends, they are sluggish to toil in the pursuit of what is noble. They are lazy in seeking the good, and always walk in the paths of laughter and rejoicing.
If a vision of lust appears to them and beckons to them, they invent falsehoods so that they may turn to it. They bolster up its arguments to make its deception seem upright, to strengthen its lies, to make firm its looseness. But when the light of truth invitingly shines before them, they make up idle pretexts to refrain from turning to it. They argue against it, declare its courses misleading and contradict its assertions, so as to make it appear inconsistent and thus have an excuse to part from it. Every man’s enemy is between his own ribs. Unless, he has an aid from G-d, a rebuker always ready for [rebuking] his soul, a powerful governor, that will harness his soul with the saddle of service, and will muzzle it with the bridle of righteousness, strike it with the stick of discipline; and when he resolves to do good, he should not delay, and if his heart entices him to a different path, he should scold it and overpower it.
Therefore, I found myself obligated to force my soul to bear the task of composing this book, and resolved to expound its topics with whatever language or analogy would make the matters readily understandable. Among all the duties of the heart, I will only mention those which suggest themselves to me, and will not trouble to expound all of them, so that the book will not be too long. I will, however, cite among the things necessary for the clarification of each of its roots in the section allocated to it. And from G-d, the true Unity, may I receive aid. On Him, I place my trust and to Him I ask to teach me the right path which He desires, and which is pleasing and acceptable to Him, in word and deed, in inner and outer conduct.
When my deliberation was complete, and I finally resolved to write it, I laid its foundations. I built it on a basis of ten principles, which cover all of the Duties of the Heart and accordingly divided the book into ten parts, each part designated for one principle, discussing its scope and divisions, the things it depends on, and the things detrimental to it.
I propose to take the most direct (easiest) method of arousing, teaching, and instructing, using language clear, direct, and familiar, so that my words will be more easily understood. I will refrain from deep language, unusual terms, and the arguments in the way of “defeat” (nitzuach), which the logicians call in arabic “Algidal”, and likewise for remote inquiries which cannot be resolved in this work, for I only brought such arguments as are satisfactory and convincing according to the methods proper to the science of theology.
As the philosopher said “it is not proper to seek of every inquiry a conclusion in the way of mofet (irrefutable proof), since not every topic in rational inquiry can be demonstrated to this extent. Likewise, we should not be satisfied in the science of nature with the method of ‘sufficient’ (since a full “raya” proof can be achieved). Nor in the science of theology should we strive to apprehend with the senses or draw comparisons with physical phenomena.”
Nor should we require logical demonstration of the first principles in nature (i.e. why the nature of this is like this and the nature of that is different, for this is how G-d created them -LT). Nor should we require logical demonstration of the first demonstrations of the first principles (the axioms of logic such as that the all is greater than the part, or that the diagonal of a right triangle is longer than the side -LT).
If we carefully avoid these things, it will be easier for us to achieve our aims. I we do not do so, we will stray from our subject, and it will be difficult for us to achieve our intended purpose.
Since this work is of theological character, I have refrained from the methods of demonstration usual in the sciences of logic and mathematics except in the first gate, where possibly the subtlety of the inquiry compels resort to these methods.
I have drawn most of my proofs from propositions which are accepted as reasonable and these I have made clear by familiar examples about which there can be no doubt. I supported them with what I found written in Scripture and afterwards with the words of tradition received from our Sages. I quoted also the pious and wise of other nations whose words have come down to us, hoping that my readers’ hearts would incline to them and give heed to their wisdom, as for example, the words of philosophers, the ethical teachings of the ascetics, and their praiseworthy customs. Our Rabbis have already said regarding this (Sanhedrin 39b):
“One verse says: ‘after the ways of the surrounding nations you have done’ (Ezek. 11:12), while in another verse it says [in contradiction] ‘after the ways of the surrounding nations you have not done’ (Ezek. 5:7). How can this be reconciled? As follows – their good ways you have not copied; their evil ones you have followed.”
Likewise, the Rabbis said (Megila 16a): “whoever says a wise thing, even among the gentiles is considered a Sage”. They also said regarding bringing analogies to make difficult concepts easier to understand: “he taught it by signs and explained it by analogies” (Eruvin 21b); and the wise man said: “to understand a parable and figure, the words of the wise and their riddles” (Prov. 1:6).
When I accepted to undertake the task of composing this book on the divisions of the duties of the heart, I set my mind to select those which were most comprehensive and which would lead to the rest.
I set their chief root, and great foundation to be the wholehearted acceptance of G-d’s Unity. Afterwards, I examined which of the duties of the heart are most fitting to be joined to the [wholehearted acceptance of the] Unity of G-d. I fully realized that as the Creator is the true Unity, and is subject to neither essence nor incident, it is impossible for us to grasp Him from the aspect of His glorious essence. We are therefore forced to know and grasp Him from the aspect of His creations. This is the topic of the second treatise, the Gate of Examination of G-d’s works. I therefore made this examination the second root of the general principles of the duties of the heart.
I then reflected on the sovereignty belonging to the true Unity, and what service is correspondingly due to Him from His creatures. I therefore set the assuming of His service as the third root of the general principles of the duties of the heart.
It then became clear to me, what is proper regarding the true Unity, that as He alone rules all things and all the benefits and harms we receive come from Him and are under His permission, we are in duty bound to put our trust in Him and to surrender ourselves over to Him. I therefore made Trust in G-d as the fourth root of the general principles of the duties of the heart.
Afterwards, I pondered on the conception of absolute Unity, that as G-d is unique in His glory, has nothing in common with anything, nor resembles anything else, we must therefore join to this that we serve Him alone, and that we devote all activities to Him, since He does not accept worship which is associated with other than Him. Therefore, I placed the devoting of acts to G-d as the fifth root of the general principles of the duties of the heart.
Afterwards, when my thoughts continued pondering as to what we owe to the true Unity regarding proclaiming His glory and greatness. Since there is none like Him, therefore we decided to join to this – humbling ourselves before Him to the utmost of our ability. Hence, I made Humility/Submission the sixth root of the general principles of the duties of the heart.
When I reflected on what happens to human beings, that they neglect and fall short of what service they owe to the blessed Creator, and the path with which they can rectify their crookedness and shortcomings, namely repentance and beseeching for forgiveness, I therefore placed Repentance as the seventh root of the general principles of the duties of the heart.
When I sought to grasp what our inner and outer duties to G-d truly are, and realized that it is impossible for us to fulfill them until we bring ourselves to an accounting on them before G-d and are meticulous in this, I made the spiritual accounting the eighth root of the general principles of the duties of the heart.
When I meditated on the matter of the true Unity, I saw that the wholehearted acknowledgement of His Unity cannot possibly endure even in the soul of the believer, if his heart is drunk with the wine of love of this world and he inclines to the material pleasures. But if he strives to empty his heart and liberate his mind from the superfluities of this world and separate himself from its luxuries, only then will he completely accept G-d’s Unity and rise to its level. I therefore set Abstinence as the ninth root of the general principles of the duties of the heart.
Afterwards, I inquired on what we are obligated to the blessed Creator, who is the goal of all our desires and the purpose of all our hopes and with whom all things begin and end, and as to what is due to Him from us in regard to the love of His favor and fear of His retribution, the former being the highest good and the latter being the greatest evil, as Scripture says “For His anger is only a moment; in His favor is life; Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Ps. 30:6), I therefore placed love of G-d as the tenth root of the general principles of the duties of the heart.
After I arrived at these principles by Reasoning, I searched our Scriptures and traditions and found them indicated in many places. I will explain each of them in their respective treatise with G-d’s help. I named the book, with a title which reflects my aim in writing it. It is called the Instruction of the Duties of the Heart.
My goal in this book is to obtain wisdom for myself and at the same time, to stir the simple and the negligent among the followers of our Torah and those who have inherited the precepts of our religion, by bringing sufficient proofs which reason can testify as to their soundness and truth and which will only be disputed by the hypocritical and false people, because to such people truth is a burden on them and their desire is to make things easier on themselves. I will not trouble myself to answer them because my purpose in this book was not to refute those who dispute the fundamentals of our faith. My aim is rather to bring to light what is already fixed in our minds and embedded in our souls of the fundamentals of our religion and the cornerstones of the Torah. When we arouse our minds to ponder them, their truth becomes clear to us inwardly and their lights will illuminate even our exterior.
The following is an analogy for this: An astrologer entered the courtyard of his friend and divined that there is a hidden treasure in it. He searched for it and found masses of silver that had turned black due to a crust of rust which had formed on it. He took a small portion, scrubbed it with vinegar and salt, washed and polished it until it had regained its original luster, splendor and shine. Afterwards, the owner [of the courtyard] gave orders that the rest of the treasure should be treated so.
My intent is to do the same with the hidden treasures of the heart, namely, to reveal them, and demonstrate their shining excellence, in order that anyone who wishes to draw close to G-d and cling to Him may do the same.
When, my brother, you have read this book, and comprehended its theme, take it for a remembrance. Bring your soul to a true judgement. Ponder it over, develop its thoughts. Cling it to your heart and mind. If you find an error in it, correct it; any omission, complete it. Have intent [when reading it] to follow its instruction and guidance. Do not have the aim of acquiring a name or to gain glory through its wisdom. Judge me leniently if you find any mistake, flaw, or whatever other shortcoming in its topics and words. For I hurried to compose it and did not tarry because I feared that death would overcome me and prevent me from my goal of completing it. You know how weak is the power of flesh to attain anything, and how deficient is man from fully grasping, as Scripture says: “Surely the sons of men are vanity; the sons of men are a lie; if they go up in the scales; they are altogether lighter than vanity” (Ps. 62:10). I have already confessed from the outset on my insufficient strength. Let this admission atone for the errors and flaws in it.
You should know that all the Duties of the Heart and all disciplines of the soul, whether positive or negative, fall within these ten roots which I have composed in this book, just like many of the commandments fall under the precepts of “love your fellow as yourself” (Levit. 19:18), and under “he did no evil to his fellow” (Ps. 15:3), and under “turn from evil and do good” (Ps. 34:15).
Fix them to your mind. Return them to your thoughts continuously. Their derivatives will be made known to you, with G-d’s help, when He will see your heart desiring in them and inclining to them, as written: “Who is the man who fears the L-ord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose” (Ps. 25:12).
I saw fitting to conclude the introduction of this book with a wondrous parable, which will stimulate you to study its content, and arouse you to realize the special importance of this class of commandments over the others, as well as the difference between the level of the physical, philosophical, and linguistic wisdoms to the level of the wisdom of the Torah. Try to understand this parable when you read it. Recall it to your thoughts. You will find what you seek with G-d’s help.
A king distributed balls of silk to his servants to check their intelligence. The industrious and sensible one sorted from the balls of silk allotted to him and selected the best quality ones. He then did the same with the remaining ones until he divided all of his portion into three grades – fine, medium, and coarse. He then made from each grade the best that could be done with it and had the material done by skilled craftsmen into expensive garments of various colors and styles, which he wore in the presence of the king, selecting garments suitable to the occasion and place.
The foolish among the king’s servants used all the balls of silk to make that which the wise servant had made with the worst sort. He sold it for whatever he could get for it, and hastily squandered the money in good food and drink or the like.
When the matter came to the king, he was pleased with the deeds of the industrious and sensible one, drew him closer, and promoted him to a position of one of his treasured servants. The deeds of the foolish servant were evil in his eyes, and the king banished him to the faraway desert lands of his kingdom to dwell among those who had incurred the king’s anger.
Likewise, the blessed Al-mighty gave His Torah of truth to His servants to test them. The thinking, intelligent man, when he reads it and understands it clearly, will divide it into three divisions. The first is the knowledge of fine spiritual themes, namely, the inner wisdom, such as the duties of the heart, the discipline of the soul and will obligate his soul on them always. Afterwards, he will select the second portion, namely, the practical duties of the limbs, doing each one in its proper time and place. Afterwards, he will make use of the third division, the historical portions of Scripture, to know the various types of men and their happenings in historical order, and the events of past ages and their hidden messages. He will use every part according to its proper occasion, place, and need.
Just like the industrious servant provided skilled craftsmen’s tools in order to carry out his intentions in the manufacture of the silk of the king, so too, in each of these divisions, the intelligent man will use the help of the practical sciences, the science of logic, the science of language, etc. which he will employ as introductory to the science of theology. For one who is not knowledgeable in them cannot recognize the wisdom of the Creator in nature, and will not know the physical workings of his own body, much less for what is outside himself.
The foolish and distracted person when he occupies himself with the Book of G-d, uses it to learn riddles of the ancients or the historical accounts. He hastens to apply it for worldly benefits and will bring arguments from it to justify pursuing worldly pleasures, abandoning the way of abstinence (from the superfluous), going in his own way, and following the views and wishes of each type of person he meets, as written “he shall die without instruction; and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray” (Prov. 5:23).
Examine, my brother, this analogy. Ponder it in your thoughts. Deduce from the Book of G-d what I have called to your attention. Seek help in this by reading the books of Rabeinu Saadiah Gaon (Emunot V’Deot -TL) which enlighten the mind, sharpen the understanding, instruct the ignorant, and arouse the lazy.
May the Almighty teach us the way of His service, as His anointed one beseeched Him: “You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; in Your right hand bliss forevermore” (Ps. 16:11).
*** INTRODUCTION ***
The author says:
After investigating after what is the most necessary of the cornerstones and fundamentals of our religion, we found that the wholehearted acceptance of the unity of G-d is the root and foundation of Judaism. It is the first of the gates of the Torah, and it differentiates between the believer and the heretic. It is the head and front of religious truth, and one who strays from it – will not be able to perform religious deeds and his faith will not endure.
Because of this, G-d’s first words to us at Mount Sinai were: “I am the L-ord your G-d…you shall not have other gods before Me”, and later on He exhorted us through His prophet saying: (Shema Yisrael..) “Hear O Israel the L-ord, is our G-d, the L-ord is One” (Deut. 6:4)
You should study this chapter of Shema Yisrael until its close, and you will see how its words move from one matter to another, encompassing 10 matters, that number corresponding to the Ten Commandments. The explanation is as follows:
First there is the command to believe in the Creator, when it says “Hear O Israel the L-ord”. His intent was not for hearing of the ear, but rather for belief and acceptance of the heart, as the verse says “we will do and we will hear” (Ex. 24:7), and “Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it” (Deut. 6:3), and similarly for all other verses which come in this way using a term denoting “hearing”, the intent is only to bring to belief and acceptance.
After He placed us under obligation to believe in the reality of His existence (through rational investigation for those capable as in ch.3), we are then called upon to believe that He is our G-d, as indicated in the word “our G-d”, and afterwards He commanded us to believe that He [alone] is truly one, in saying: “G-d is one” .
After He bid us to believe and accept these three principles we mentioned, He proceeded to what is incumbent on us to follow them with, namely, to love G-d wholeheartedly, in private and in public, with our life and with our might, as He said: “And you shall love the L-ord your G-d with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deut. 6:5). I intend to clarify this matter in the Gate of Love of G-d (Gate #10), with the Al-mighty’s help.
Afterwards, He moved on to exhort on the duties of the heart, in saying: “And these words, which I command you this day, shall be on your heart”, which means to cleave them to your heart, and believe them in your inner being.
Afterwards, He proceeded to the commandments of the limbs which require both thought and action, as He said: “you shall teach them to your sons”.
And so that if you don’t have a son, you will not mistakenly think that the (commandment of) verbally reading depends on having a son, He said: “You shall speak in them”.
Afterwards, He continued: “and you shall speak in them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up”, because the heart and tongue are never prevented from fulfilling the duties which apply to them, unlike the other limbs (which depend on various times and circumstances). In the introduction of this book, we have already pointed out that the duties of the heart are a constant duty.
And the purpose of all of this is to exhort on what He said previously: “And these words, which I command you this day, shall be on your heart”, which means that habitually having them on one’s tongue always, brings to remembrance of the heart, and to never turn one’s heart away from always remembering G-d, and this is similar to what King David, peace be unto him, said: “I have set the L-ord always before me” (Tehilim 16:8). And scripture says: “But the word is very near unto you, in your mouth, and in your heart, that you may do it” (Deut. 30:14).
Afterwards, He proceeded to the duties of the limbs which consist of action only, and gave three examples, as He said: “And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand; And they shall be as Totafot between your eyes; And you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house, and on your gates”, which refers to the Tefilin of the hand and of the head, and the Mezuza, all of whom cause one to remember the Creator, and to wholeheartedly love Him, and yearn to Him, and as scripture says regarding how lovers keep their love in mind: “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm” (Songs 8:6), and “Behold, I have engraved you upon the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:16), and “In that day, says the L-ord of hosts, will I take you, O Zerubavel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, says the L-ord, and will make you as a signet ring: for I have chosen you” (Chagai 2:23), and “A bundle of myrrh is my beloved unto me; it (the myrrh) shall lie between my breasts” (Songs 1:13). G-d ordained three signs in order that they be stronger and more enduring, as the wise man said: “a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Eccles. 4:12).
Hence, this chapter contains ten matters, five of them concern the spiritual (mind/heart), and five of them the physical (the body).
The 5 spiritual: (1) That the Creator exists. (2) He is our G-d. (3) He is the true Unity. (4) That we love Him with all our heart. (5) That we serve Him wholeheartedly.
The 5 physical: (1) You shall teach them to your children. (2) You shall speak in them (3) You shall bind them as a sign on your hand (4) They shall be as Totafot between your eyes. (5) You shall write them upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates.
And our Rabbis taught: “why does the reciting of the chapter ‘Hear O Israel’ precede the reciting of the chapter “And it shall be…”? (i.e.the second chapter. answer:) To teach that one must first acknowledge the sovereignty of G-d and afterwards assume the duty to fulfill His commandments” (Berachot 13a). Therefore, I deemed it proper to precede the Gate of Unity to the other gates of this book.
It will now be necessary for me to clarify on the subject of wholeheartedly acknowledging the unity (of G-d) ten matters:
1. What is the definition of the wholehearted acceptance of G-d’s unity?
2. how many divisions does the subject of unity divide into?
3. whether or not it is our duty to intellectually investigate the matter.
4. what is the manner of investigating it and which introductions must we know before we investigate the unity?
5. To clarify the premises which demonstrate that the world has a Creator who created it from nothing.
6. how we apply them to establish the existence of the Creator.
7. to bring proofs that He is one.
8. to clarify the matter of a conventional (relative) unity versus a true unity.
9. demonstration that G-d alone is the true Unity and that there is no true Unity besides Him.
10. the Divine attributes, those deduced by reason and those written in scripture and the ways in which these should be ascribed to G-d or denied to Him.
*** CHAPTER 1 ***
The definition of the wholehearted acceptance of the unity of G-d is that the heart and the tongue are equal in acknowledging the unity of G-d, after understanding, in the way of logical proofs, the certainty of His existence and the truth of His unity. For acknowledgement of the unity of G-d among men differs according to their level of intelligence and understanding.
Among them: One who declares the unity (of G-d) with only his tongue, namely, that he hears people say something and he is drawn after them without understanding the meaning of what he is saying.
Among them: One who declares the unity of G-d with his heart and tongue, who understands the matter of what he is saying through the Tradition that he received from his ancestors, but he does not understand the clarification of what he received of this matter, and the truth of what he believes in this matter.
Among them: One who declares His unity after understanding through logical proofs the truth of the matter, but he will conceive G-d’s Unity like other unities to be found, and he will come to form a material conception of the Creator and represent Him with a form and likeness because he does not understand the true nature of His Unity and the matter of His existence.
Among them: One who declares G-d’s unity with his heart and with his tongue after understanding the concept of true unity versus relative unity, and he can bring proofs to demonstrate G-d’s existence and true Unity – this class of men is the complete (unblemished) group regarding the matter of unity of G-d.
Therefore, I defined the wholehearted acknowledgement of the unity (of G-d) – that it is the equalizing of the tongue and the heart (mind)) in the unity of the Creator, after one knows how to bring proofs on it and understands the ways of His true Unity through rational investigation.
*** CHAPTER 2 ***
The author says: Regarding how many ways the unity of the Creator is conceived, I will answer as follows: Since the word “unity” spread among men of the unity (Jews), they became accustomed to using it frequently in their tongue and speech, until it became an expression of amazement whether for good or for bad.
And they use it to express their dread of great calamity, and to exaggerate it and to express amazement on it, and they don’t put to heart to understand the true matter of what passes through their tongue (when reciting the Shema), due to ignorance and laziness. And they consider the matter of Unity is done for them when they finish (reciting) its words, and they do not sense that their heart is devoid of His truth and that their mind is empty of its meaning because they declare His unity with their tongue and in words. They will conceive Him in their hearts to be more than One (i.e. with forms of “plurality” as will be explained) and represent Him in their minds with the likeness of other “unities” to be found, and they will speak of His attributes in a way that cannot belong to the true Unity, because they don’t understand the matter of true Unity versus temporary unity, except for a treasured few who plumbed the depths of wisdom and understood the matter of the Creator versus the created, and the characteristics of true Unity and what G-d is singular in.
The philosopher spoke truth when he said: “no one can serve the Cause of causes and Beginning of beginnings except the prophet of the generation with his senses or the primary (perfect – TL) philosopher with the wisdom he acquired, but others serve other than Him, since they cannot conceive what exists, but rather can only conceive that which is composite.
Because of this the acceptance of the Unity falls into four divisions, corresponding to the different levels of recognition and understanding in men:
(1) Unity of G-d in the tongue only. This level is reached by the child and the simpleton who does not understand the matter of (true) religion, and in whose heart its truth is not fixed.
(2) Unity of G-d in the mind and in the tongue through Tradition, because he believes those who he received from, but he does not understand the truth of the matter through his own intellect and understanding. He is like the blind man who follows the seeing man, and it is possible that the one he follows received the Tradition from a receiver like himself, whereby it would be like a procession of blind men where each one places his hands on the shoulders of the fellow before him until at the head is a seeing man who guides them all. If the seeing man fails them or neglects them and is not careful to guard them, or if one of the blind men in the chain stumbles or some other trouble happens – all of them will share the same fate, and will stray from the path; and it is possible they will fall in a pit or ditch, or they will stumble in something which blocks their progress.
Similarly for one who proclaims the unity out of tradition, one cannot be sure he will not come to association, that if he hears the words of the Meshanim and their claims, It is possible that he will change his outlook, and will err without noticing. Because of this our Sages said: “Be eager to study the Torah and know what to respond to an apikoros (heretic)” (Pirkei Avos 2:14).
(3) The third group: Unity of G-d with the mind and the tongue after one can bring logical proofs demonstrating the truth of His existence, but without understanding the matter of true Unity versus temporary unity. This is like a seeing man who is travelling along the road, wishing to reach a faraway land. Even though he knows the general direction, but the road splits to many uncertain roads, and he does not recognize the correct road which leads to the city he wishes to reach.
He will greatly tire himself and will fail to reach his destination, because he does not know the (correct) road, as the verse says: “the toil of the fool will tire him who knows not to reach a city” (Eccles. 10:15).
(4) The fourth group: Acknowledgement of the Unity of G-d with the mind and the tongue after one knows how to bring proofs on it, and to comprehend the truth of His Unity through intellectual derivation and correct, sound reasoning – this is the complete and important group, and this is the level which the prophet exhorted us in saying: “Know therefore this day, and set it in your heart, that the L-ord He is G-d” (Deut. 4:39).
*** CHAPTER 3 ***
Regarding whether or not it is our duty to rationally investigate on the unity of G-d, I will say as follows: For anyone who is capable of investigating on this and other similar matters through rational inquiry – it is his duty to do so according to his intelligence and perception.
I have already written in the introduction to this book sufficient arguments which demonstrate the obligation of this matter. Anyone who neglects to investigate into it is blameworthy and is considered as belonging to the class of men who fall short in wisdom and conduct. He is like a sick man (a doctor) who is an expert on the nature of his disease and the correct healing method, but instead relies on another doctor to heal him who applies various healing methods, while he is lazy to inquire using his own wisdom and reasoning into the methods employed by the doctor, to see whether or not the doctor is dealing with him correctly or not, when he was easily able to do this without anything preventing him. The Torah has already obligated us on this, as written: “know therefore today, and lay it to your heart[, that the L-ord is G-d in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other]” (Deut. 4:39).
The proof that “lay it to your heart” refers to intellectual investigation, is from what the following verse says: “And none lays it to his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding” (Isaiah 44:19). So too David urged his son: “And you, Solomon my son, know you the G-d of your father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing soul; for the L-ord searches all hearts” (Chronicles 28:9).
And David said: “Know you that the L-ord He is G-d” (Ps. 100:3).
And “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he has known My Name” (Ps. 91:14), and “But let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me” (Yirmiya 9:23), and our Sages said: “be diligent in the study of Torah and know what to answer a heretic” (Avos 2:14), and the Torah says: “Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations..” (Deut. 4:6).
And it is impossible for the nations to admit to our claims of superior wisdom and understanding unless there are proofs and evidences which can testify for us along with the testimony of the intellect on the truth of our Torah and our faith. And our Maker has already promised us that He will remove the veil of ignorance from their minds, and show His magnificent glory as a sign to us on the truth of our Torah when He said: “And the nations shall walk by your light” (Isaiah 60:3), and “And many peoples shall go and say, Come you, and let us go up to the mountain of the L-ord, to the house of the G-d of Jacob..” (Isaiah 2:3).
It is now clear from logic, scripture, and tradition that it is our duty to investigate into this of what we are capable of clearly grasping with our minds.
*** CHAPTER 4 ***
Regarding what is the way to investigate on the truth of the unity, and what introductions we need to know before we investigate on this unity, I will say as follows.
Any matter which one would like to understand when one is in doubt of its very existence, must first ask “does it exist or not?” After one has established its existence, one must then enquire as to what it is, how it is, and why it is. But regarding the Creator, a man may only ask whether He exists. And when His existence is demonstrated through rational investigation, we may further enquire whether He is one or more than one. And when it is clear that He is one, we may enquire on the matter of unity, and on how many ways this term is used, and in this way we will establish for ourselves the complete recognition of the unity of G-d, as the verse says: “Hear O Israel, the L-ord is our G-d, the L-ord is One” (Deut. 6:4).
Therefore, we must first enquire whether or not this world has a Creator. When it becomes clear that the world has a Creator who created it as something new, we can then further enquire whether He is one or more than one. Then, when it will be established that He is one, we can investigate into the matter of true (absolute) Unity and temporary (relative) unity, and then consider what we can say of the Creator regarding His true matter, and through this we will have completed the matter of acknowledgement of the unity of G-d in our hearts and minds, with G-d’s help.
*** CHAPTER 5 ***
There are three premises which lead to the inference that this world has a Creator who created it from nothing:
1) A thing cannot make itself.
2) Beginnings (causes) are limited in number; therefore, they must have a First Beginning (First cause) which had no beginning (cause) before it.
3) Anything composite must have been brought into existence (cannot be eternal, i.e. without beginning).
When these three premises are established, the inference will be, for one who understands how to apply them and combine them – that the world has a Creator who created it from nothing, as we will demonstrate with G-d’s help.
The proof of these three premises is as follows.
PROOF OF FIRST PREMISE
Anything that exists, after it had not existed, cannot escape one of two possibilities: Either it created itself or something else created it.
If it created itself, then, also it cannot escape one of two possibilities: Either it created itself before it existed or after it existed.
Both are impossible, because if we suppose that it created itself after it existed, then it did nothing, since it was not necessary to make itself because it already existed before doing anything, therefore, it did nothing.
If we suppose it made itself before it existed – at that time it was “efes v’ofes” (absolutely nothing – TL), and that which is efes (nothing) cannot perform any action nor preparation (potential) for action, because nothingness cannot do anything. Therefore, it is impossible for something to make itself in any way.
The first premise has been clarified.
PROOF OF SECOND PREMISE – (Beginnings are limited in number)
The proof of the second premise is as follows: (commentaries to follow)
Whatever has a limit/end (i.e. is finite) must have a beginning, because it is evident that something which has no beginning (i.e. existed eternally) has no limit/end (i.e. is finite), since it is impossible for man to fathom the limits of that which is without beginning.
Therefore, that which was found to have a limit/end, we know that it must have had a first beginning which had no beginning before it, and a starting with no starting before it. And when we consider the finite character of all the beginnings found in the world, we must conclude that they had a first Beginning with no beginning before it and a first starting with no start before it, since there cannot be an infinite chain of (non-eternal) beginnings.
SECOND PROOF THAT BEGINNINGS/CAUSES MUST BE FINITE IN NUMBER
(commentaries to follow)
Furthermore, it is evident that anything which has parts must have a whole, since a whole is merely the sum of its parts. It is not conceivable for something infinite to be comprised of parts, because a part, by definition, is an amount separated from another amount, and through the part the whole is measured, as Euclides mentioned in the fifth treatise of his book of measures.
If we consider in our thoughts something which is infinite in actuality, and we take a part from it, the remainder will undoubtedly be less than what it was before. And if the remainder is also infinite, then one infinite will be greater than another infinite, which is impossible.
Alternatively, if the remainder (of the whole) is now finite, and we put back the part that we took away – then the whole will be finite, but it was originally infinite, if so the same thing is finite and infinite which is a contradiction and impossible. And therefore, it is impossible to take out a part from something which is infinite, since whatever is comprised of parts is undoubtedly finite.
Now of all things (individuals) that have ever existed in the world, if we take out a part of this total number, such as all the individual things that came into existence from the days of Noah to the days of Moses. The total number of individual things of this part is finite, therefore the whole together is also finite. And since the whole of this world is finite in the number of its individual things, it must also be that the number of its beginnings (causes) is also finite, and perforce this world has a first Cause which had no previous cause, and it is necessary because of this, that the beginnings reach an end.
PROOF OF THIRD PREMISE
The demonstration of the third premise: Anything composite is evidently composed of more than one thing, and these things which it is composed of must precede it by nature. Likewise, whatever assembled the compound must also precede it by nature and by time.
The kadmon (that which always existed), is that which has no cause, and that which has no cause has no beginning, and that which has no beginning has no limit/end (as before). Consequently, that which has a beginning is not kadmon, and anything which is not kadmon is mechudash (created, brought into existence from nothing), since there is no third term that can be between eternal and created which is neither eternal nor created. If so, anything which is composite is not eternal, and therefore must have been created. Since the third premise has been demonstrated, all three premises have been established.
*** CHAPTER 6 ***
The application of the previous premises we mentioned to demonstrate the existence of the Creator, is as follows.
When we contemplate on this world, we find it is composite and compound. There is no part of it that does not have the character of composition and coordination. For to our senses and intellect it appears like a built and furnished house, whereby all its needs are prepared. The sky above like a roof, the land below like a carpet, the stars in their array like candles. All the objects gathered in it like treasures – everything has its need. Man is like the master of the house who uses all that is in it. The various types of plants are prepared for his benefit; the various kinds of animals serve his use, as David said: “You have made man to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet; All sheep and oxen, and the beasts of the field; The birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passes through the paths of the seas” (Ps. 8:7).
And the order of the sunrise and sunset – to establish the daytime and nighttime, and the rising and lowering of the sun to establish the heat and the cold, the summer and the winter, for the matters of the seasons and their benefits, and their continuous changing according to this order without interruption as written “Who commands the sun, and it rises not; and seals up the stars.” (Iyov 9:7), and “You make darkness, and it is night” (Ps. 104:20).
And the orbits of the planets, with their various movements and periods, and the stars and constellations who follow precise movements and exact order, without straying and without changing, and the purpose of everything is for the benefit of mankind, as Solomon said: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Eccles. 3:11), and “also He has set the world in men’s hearts” (Eccles. 3:1).
And everything, whether in part or as a whole, can be observed to be composite and compound. When we examine a plant or a live creature, we find them composed of the four elements – fire, air, water, and earth, which are separate and different.
(back to the book)
We do not have the capability to join the four elements, in the natural way we find them compounded in nature because they are different and even repel each other. If we attempt to artificially combine them, the result rapidly changes and disintegrates, while the synthesis brought about through nature is complete and endures until the (appointed) time of its end.
Some of the philosophers thought that the planets, stars, supernal Ishim are from the element of fire, and similar to this David said: “Who makes winds His messengers; Flames of fire His ministers” (Ps. 104:4), and this is a support for this view, and that they are not of a fifth element (quintessence) as Aristotle held.
Since all existing things that we find are from the elements, and composed of them, and we know that they were not combined on their own, and by their inherent nature do not join together because of their repelling characteristics, it is clear to us that something else must have joined them and bound them, and fused them together against their nature, by force – this is their Creator, who joined them and ordained their union.
If we investigate the four elements, we will find them to be composed of Matter (chomer) and Form (tzura) which are the Essence (etzem) and Incident (mikre).
The [formless] Matter of the elements is the primordial matter, which is the root of the four elements, the physical or “hiyuli” of them.
Their Form is the primordial form which comprises all forms, and which is the root of all forms, whether essence or incident such as heat, cold, wetness, dryness, heaviness, lightness, movement, rest, etc.
[To summarize], combination and union are apparent throughout the world, as a whole and in all of its parts, in its roots and in its branches, in that which is simple and in that which is complex, in that which is above and in that which is below. Therefore, based on our previous premises, it follows that the world is entirely mechudash (created), since it has been clarified that whatever is composite must have been brought into existence. Therefore it is proper for us to conclude that the world is mechudash, and since this is so, and that it is not possible for something to make itself, therefore it must be that there was a Maker who started it and brought it into existence.
And because we have demonstrated that it is not possible for there to be an infinite chain of causes, it must be that there was a first Cause without a previous cause and a Beginning without a previous beginning – and He is the one who formed it and brought it into existence from nothing, not with the help of anything nor for anything.
As the verse says on this matter: “I am the L-ord that makes all things; that stretches forth the heavens alone; that spreads abroad the earth by Myself” (Isaiah 44:24), and “He stretches out the north over the empty place, and suspends the earth over nothing” (Iyov 26:7). He is the Creator, Whom we have investigated and sought with our reasoning and intellect. He is the Kadmon (Eternal) which there is no beginning to His beginning, and the First, whose eternity is endless, as written: “I am first and I am last” (Isaiah 44:6), and “Who has performed and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the L-ord, the first, and with the last, I am He” (Isaiah 41:4).
There are some people who claim that the world came into being by chance, without a Creator who created it and without a Maker who formed it. It is amazing to me how a rational, healthy human being could entertain such a notion. If such a person heard someone else saying the same thing about a water wheel, which turns to irrigate part of a field or a garden, saying that it came to be without a craftsman who designed it and toiled to assemble it and placed each part for a useful purpose – the hearer would be greatly amazed on him, consider him a complete fool, and be swift to call him a liar and reject his words. And since he would reject such a notion for a mere simple, insignificant water wheel, which requires but little ingenuity and which rectifies but a small portion of the earth – how could he permit himself to entertain such a notion for the entire universe which encompasses the earth and everything in it, and which exhibits a wisdom that no rational human intellect is capable of fathoming, and which is prepared for the benefit of the whole earth and everything on it. How could one claim that it came to be without purposeful intent and thought of a capable wise Being?
It is evident to us that for things which come about without the intent of an intender (i.e. an intelligence) – none of them will display any trace of wisdom or ability. Behold and see, that if a man suddenly pours ink on clean paper, it would be impossible for there to be drawn on it orderly writing and legible lines like it would be with a pen, and if a man brought before us orderly writing from what cannot be written without use of a pen, and he would say that ink was spilled on paper, and the form of the writing happened on its own, we would be quick to call him a liar to his face. For we would feel certain that it could not have happened without an intelligent person’s intent.
Since this appears impossible to our eyes for mere symbols (the alphabet) whose form is merely conventional, how could one entertain the notion for something whose engineering is far more fine, and whose formation is infinitely more fine, deep and beyond our comprehension, to say that it is without intent of an Intender, and without the wisdom of a wise and powerful Being.
What we have brought to establish the existence of the Creator from the aspect of His deeds should be enough for anyone who is intelligent and admits the truth, and it is a sufficient refutation to the group of kadmut, who claim the world is kadmon (always existed), and to disprove their claims. Know it well!
*** CHAPTER 7 ***
The demonstration of the Creator is one is as follows. Since it has been clarified to us, through logical proofs, that the world has a Creator, it is incumbent on us to investigate on Him, whether He is one or more than one and we will demonstrate the truth of His unity from seven arguments.
FIRST ARGUMENT FOR THE UNITY OF G-D
The first, from our examination of the causes of existent things. When we investigate on them, we find that causes are always fewer than their effects, namely, the higher up one ascends into the chain of causes, the fewer the number of causes, and the more and more one ascends this chain, the fewer and fewer will be their number until eventually one reaches one Cause, which is the Cause of all causes.
The fuller explanation of this: Individual things (Ishim) that exist are countless. When we investigate the kinds (minim), which comprise them, we will find their number to be fewer than the individuals under them, because each kind includes many individuals, and they are not countless. And when we categorize the kinds into (broader category) “types” (sugim) which includes the kinds, we will find the number of types to be fewer than the number of kinds, since each type includes many kinds, and the more one ascends the fewer the number, until one reaches the primary types.
The philosopher (Aristotle) already said that the general types are ten: Etzem, Kama, Eich, Mitztaref, Ana, Matay, Matzav, Kinyan, Poel, and Nifal. (explanation in below commentaries)
The causes of these ten general types are five: Motion and the four elements – Fire, Air, Water, and Earth..
The causes of the four elements are found to be two: Matter (chomer) and Form (tzura), and if we further examine on the cause of these two, undoubtedly it will be less than them. This (cause) is the will of the Creator, and there is no number less than two but one, if so, the Creator is one.
And likewise David, peace be unto him, said: “Yours, O L-ord, is the kingdom and You are exalted as head over all” (Chronicles 29:11), which means that G-d is exalted above all that is exalted, lofty above all that is lofty. He is the First of all beginnings and the Cause of all causes.
THE SECOND ARGUMENT FOR THE UNITY OF G-D
The second argument is drawn from the perspective of the signs of wisdom manifested in the universe, whether above or below, in the inanimate, plants, and animals on it.
When we contemplate the world, it will become apparent that – it is the design of one Thinker, and the work of one Creator. We find its roots and foundations to be similar in its derivatives and uniform in its parts. The signs of wisdom manifested in the smallest of the creatures as well as the biggest testify that they are the work of one wise Creator. If this world had more than one Creator, the form of wisdom would exhibit different forms in the different parts of the world, and vary in its general character and divisions.
Furthermore, we find that it is interdependent for its maintenance and welfare, no part is completed without the help of another part, like the links in a coat of armor, the parts of a bed, the limbs of the human body, or other things which have interdependent parts for their functioning.
Can you see that the moon and the planets need the light of the sun, and the earth needs the sky and the water, and that the animals need each other, and some species feed on other species, such as predatory birds, fish, and beasts of the forest all need each other? And Man’s need for everything, and the rectification of everything through man (man gives a higher purpose to everything). Countries, towns, sciences and trades are interdependent.
And the Divine wisdom appears in the tiny creatures as well as the large ones, because the wisdom manifested in the formation of an elephant, despite its huge body, is no more wondrous than the wisdom manifested in the formation of a tiny ant. On the contrary, the smaller the creature the more wisdom and power it appears to reflect, and the more it testifies to the wondrous ability of the Creator.
This teaches that they are all the design of one Designer and Creator, since they are similar and alike in furthering and completing the natural order and maintenance of the world in all of its parts. If there were more than one Creator, the form of wisdom exhibited would be different in some of its parts, and things would not be interdependent. Since the world, despite its being different in its roots and foundations, it is equal in its derivatives and compounds, one can see that its Creator who put it together, its Governor, and Designer is one.
A philosopher once said: “no part of what G-d created is more wondrous than another part”. Which means the wisdom in a tiny creature of this world is similar and equal to that in a large one, as David, peace be unto him, said: “O L-ord, how manifold are Your works! with wisdom have You made them all: the earth is full of Your possessions” (Ps. 104:24), and “O L-ord, how great are Your works! Your thoughts are exceedingly deep” (Ps. 92:6).
THE THIRD ARGUMENT
The third argument, from the chidush (non-eternal nature) which applies to the entire universe. Since our previous proofs demonstrated that the world is created (see chapters 5-6), it follows from this that it must therefore have had a Creator. For it is impossible for something to come into existence by itself. And when we see that a thing exists, and we are certain that at some time it did not exist – we will know through the testimony of a sound intellect that something other than itself created it, brought it into being, and formed it.
Since we have established that the world has a Creator who created it and brought it into existence – we need not deliberate whether He is more or less than one since it is impossible for the existence of the world without at least one Creator. And if it were possible to conceive that the world could have come into existence with less than one Creator, we would consider this. But since we cannot conceive that something less than one can bring anything into existence, we conclude that the Creator must be one. Because in the case of things which were established through logical proofs, and the proof of their existence is impossible to deny – we do not need to assume more than what is necessary to account for the phenomena which the proof demonstrates.
The analogy of this: When we see a letter of uniform handwriting and style, it will immediately occur to us that one person wrote and composed it because it is not possible that there was not at least one person. If it were possible that it could have been written with less than one person, we would consider this possibility. And even though it is possible that it was written by more than one person, it is not proper to consider this unless there is evidence which testifies to this, such as different handwriting style in part of the letter or the like.
Since this is so, it is not necessary to know Him face to face, if this is not possible, and it will suffice for us to see the letter, accepting as proof the writer’s acts, namely, the form of the writing, instead of seeing the writer himself. From this, we will know with certainty that there exists a writer, who knows how to write and is capable of writing, who wrote this letter.
He did not partner with someone else in writing it. This we can see from its orderly form and uniform handwriting, since the work of two makers varies. It is not uniform and orderly in one manner, and it changes in quality and character.
Similarly we will say regarding the Creator, since the signs of wisdom in His creations are similar and uniform, we must conclude that one Creator created them, and that without Him they could not have come into existence, although the Creator is not something that can be perceived either in Etzem (essence) or Mikre (incident). And since He cannot be seen, it is impossible to find Him and know Him except through the proofs and observations of His handiworks which point to Him. Then will our belief stand firm that He exists and that He is One, that He is Kadmon (eternal), who was and will be, the First and the Last, Mighty, Wise, Living.
Since He is not among the things which can be seen, the proofs regarding Him will stand for us in place of seeing Him.
Therefore, it is necessary for us to conclude that one Creator created the world, because the existence of created things is impossible without Him. The assumption of more than one God is superfluous and unnecessary. Therefore, one who claims this – his claim cannot be considered legitimate unless he brings a sound logical proof other than that which we have brought. But it is impossible to establish such a proof, since two sound logical proofs do not contradict each other.
All the evidence thus testifies on His unity, and negates the attributing to Him of any plurality, association or similarity, as G-d Himself declares: “Is there a god besides me?” (Isaiah 44:8), and “I am the First and I am the Last” (ibid 44:6), and “My hand has laid the foundations of the earth, and My right hand has spread out the heavens” (Isaiah 48:13), and “a just G-d and a Savior; there is none besides Me” (Isaiah 45:21).
THE FOURTH ARGUMENT
(Translator: Important Note. In this argument, we are talking about spiritual matters which are exceedingly deep. You can’t think on them the same way you think on physical things. The author already warned in chapter 2 that only a select few can grasp these very subtle arguments. commentaries to follow!)
The fourth argument: We will say to anyone who thinks the Creator is more than one as follows. It must be that the essence of all these (supposed creators) is either one or not one.
If you say, that in essence they are one, if so, they are one thing, and the Creator is not more than one.
If you say that each one of them is, in essence, different from the other, it must therefore be there is some distinction between them due to their difference and non-similarity. If so, whatever is distinct is limited/bound. And whatever is limited/bound is finite. And whatever is finite is composite – and whatever is composite was brought into existence, and whatever is brought into existence must have a Creator.
Therefore, one who thinks the Creator is more than one must also assume that this creator was brought into existence. We already demonstrated, however, that the Creator is Kadmon (without beginning), and that He is the Cause of causes and the Beginning of all beginnings. Therefore, He must be one and as the verse says “You are the L-ord, You alone” (Nechemia 9:6). (end of proof)
THE FIFTH ARGUMENT
The fifth argument, from the concepts of plurality and unity as follows.
In his book, Euclides defined unity as: “Unity is that property through which we say of any thing that is one”. This means that by nature, unity precedes the individual thing, just as we say that heat precedes a hot object. If there were no “unity”, we could not say of anything that it is one.
The idea which we need to form in our mind of unity is of oneness that is complete, a uniqueness, that is absolutely devoid of composition or resemblance. Free, in every respect of plurality or number, that is neither associated with anything nor dissociated from anything.
The idea of plurality is that of a sum of unities. Plurality therefore cannot precede unity of which it has been formed. If we conceive something plural with our intellect or perceive it through our senses, we will know with certainty that unity preceded it, just like when counting things, the number one precedes the rest of the numbers. Whoever thinks the Creator is more than one, must therefore nevertheless concede that there was a preceding unity, just as the numeral one precedes the other numbers, and just like the notion of unity precedes that of plurality. Hence, the Creator is absolutely One, and Eternal (Kadmon), and none is Eternal but He as written: “Before Me no G-d was formed, nor shall any be after Me” (Isaiah 43:10).
THE SIXTH ARGUMENT
The sixth argument, from the Mikre (incidental) properties that attach to everything that is plural. Plurality is an incidental property ascribed to the Etzem (essence), and comes under the category of “Kamus” (quantity). Since He is the Creator of essence and incident, none of these attributes can be ascribed to His glorious Being. For, it having been clearly demonstrated through scripture and reason that the Creator is above and beyond all comparison with, and similarity to, any of His creations, and seeing that plurality which adheres to the essence of anything that is plural is an incidental property – this property cannot be fittingly ascribed to the Creator’s glorious Essence. And if He cannot be described as plural, He must certainly be One because there is nothing in between the two possibilities, as Chana said: “There is none holy as the L-ord: for there is none beside You” (Shmuel I 2:2).
THE SEVENTH ARGUMENT:
If the Creator were more than one, then either each one of these hypothetical creators is capable of creating the universe by itself or could not have done so without the help of the other.
If any one of them is capable – the other Creator is superfluous, since the first is capable without him and does not need (the help) of the other.
And if the creation of the world cannot be completed without their partnering together, then no single one of them had full and complete strength and capacity. Each lacked the necessary power and ability and was weak. What is weak is finite in strength and essence. What is finite is bound. Whatever is bound – is composite. Whatever is composite has been brought into existence, and anything brought into existence must have some one who brought it into existence (a Creator).
Hence, what is weak (finite) cannot possibly be Eternal since the Eternal does not fall short in any respect nor stands in need of another’s help. Therefore, the Creator is not more than One.
If it were possible for the Creator to be more than one, it would also be possible that there would be disagreement between them in the creation of the world and that the matter would not have been completed. Since we find that all of this world follows one order, and a uniform movement for all of its parts, which does not change over generations nor does it seem to change in the nature of its conduct, therefore, we know that its Creator and Ruler is One, and that none besides Him alters His work or changes His rule, as scripture says: “And who, as I do, shall call, and shall proclaim it, and set it in order for Me” (Isaiah 44:7), and David said: “Forever, O L-ord, your word is stands fast in heaven; Your faithfulness is unto all generations: You have established the earth, and it abides” (Ps. 119:89-90)
The Creator’s perfect governance which we observe in His creatures (also indicate His unity – Rabbi Hyamson). For government can be perfect and abidingly consistent, smoothly in one way only when there is a single individual making decisions and conducting the matter, as in the king ruling a country or in the soul controlling the body.
Thus Aristotle said in his book on the subject of unity: “it is not good to have many heads, but rather to have only one head”. So too Solomon said: “For the transgression of a land many are the princes thereof” (Mishlei 28:2).
What we brought here should be enough for the understanding person, and this should suffice to answer the believers of dual gods or the trinity gods of the Christians, and others. For when we establish the unity of the Creator of the world, all those who claim that He is plural will be automatically refuted. Note it well.
*** CHAPTER 8 ***
The distinction between true (absolute) unity and conventional unity is as follows.
The term “one” is derived from the concept of “unity”. The term is used in two senses. One of them is mikri (incidental), which is the conventional unity. While the second is in essence and enduring – this is true (absolute) unity.
Incidental unity subdivides into two divisions. In one of these the character of multitude, collectivity, and aggregation is apparent in it, such as one genus which includes many species or like one species which includes many individuals, and like one man which is comprised of many parts or one army which includes many men.
Or like we say one Hin (measure), one Rova (measure) or one liter (ex. of rice or water) which contain smaller measures, each of which is also called “one”. Every one of these things we mentioned are called “one” conventionally, because the things included under the one name are alike. Every one of them may also be called “plural” since it includes many things which when separated and isolated will each be called “one”. Unity in all these manners we mentioned is Mikre (incidental). Each is a unit from one perspective and plural from another aspect.
The second division of incidental unity is the unity attributed to a single individual, who though seemingly not plural and not a collection of several things, yet is essentially plural, – being composed of matter and form, essence and incident, susceptible to “creation” and “destruction”, division and combination, separation and association, change and variation. (see commentaries)
Plurality must be attributed to anything for which any of these things we mentioned applies to, for they are contradictory to unity. Unity ascribed to anything essentially plural and variable in any way is undoubtedly Mikre (an incidental property). It is unity conventionally, but not in a true sense. Strive to understand this.
True (absolute) unity is also of two kinds. The first in abstract thought and the second in actual reality.
The abstract thought version is numerical unity, namely, the root and beginning of all numbers. It is the sign and symbol of a beginning unprecedented by any other beginning. For every true beginning is termed “One”, as for example: “And there was evening and there was morning, one day” (Gen. 1:5). Instead of saying “the first day”, the verse uses the term “one (day)”, because the term “one” refers to any beginning unprecedented by any other beginning. When repeated, it is called “the second”, and when repeated again – “the third”, and so on until the number “ten”, “a hundred”, “a thousand”, which are also units of new series, and so on to infinity.
Therefore the definition of number is that it is a sum of units. The reason I called it “abstract thought” is because the notion of number is not perceived by the physical senses. Rather, it is grasped only in thought. It is the “numbered” object alone which is perceptible to the five senses or by some of them.
The second kind of true unity exists actually. It is that which is neither plural nor susceptible to change or variation, is not described by any of the corporeal attributes, is not subject to “creation”, destruction or end. Does not move or waver, does not resemble anything nor does anything resemble it, and is not associated with anything. It is from all possible perspectives – true Unity and the root of everything plural. For as we already pointed out, unity is the cause of plurality.
The true unity has neither beginning nor finiteness because anything which has a beginning or finiteness necessarily must be subject to origination and destruction. And anything subject to these is also subject to change, and change is inconsistent with Unity. Hence, it would be more than one since it had existed as one thing and then changed into a different thing, and this necessarily implies plurality.
Similarity is also an incidental property (mikre) in anything which is similar (to something else), and whatever has an incidental property is plural. But absolute unity, in its glorious essence, is not subject to any incidental properties whatsoever in any respect.
If one will claim that the quality of “unity” is itself an incidental property in the Absolutely One.
We will answer this as follows: The ascribing of true unity is intended to express the exclusion of multitude and plurality. When we describe Him as One, we mean only the negation of any multitude or plurality. But the true Unity, cannot be described by any attribute that would connote in His glorious essence any plurality, change, or variation. With this we have completed our words, regarding the true unity and the relative unity. Note it well.
*** CHAPTER 9 ***
The proof that the Creator is the true (absolute) Unity and that there is no true Unity besides Him is as follows.
Any composite thing only comes completely into existence when the parts of which it is comprised join together and unite. The association (of the parts) is the unity.
And likewise, the existence of something composite is not possible without the dividing (or disintegrating) the parts of which it is comprised, since composition necessarily implies more than one part. The divisioning of the parts is plurality.
And since the signs of composition, synthesis, and arrangement are found in the universe as a whole as well as in its details and parts, in its roots and derivatives, it is necessarily subject to synthesis and division, and must contain the basic principles of Unity and Plurality.
And since, in essence, Unity precedes Plurality, just like the number one precedes the other numbers, it follows that the First cause of everything that is plural, which was at the head of all beginnings is itself not plural since all things plural are preceded by unity.
And since causes must reach a limit at their beginning, and it is not possible for a thing to make itself, therefore it is impossible for the cause of unity and plurality to itself be of unity and plurality like them
And since the First Cause of the creations cannot itself be plural nor a combination of plurality and unity, it must necessarily be that the Cause is a true (absolute) Unity.
And we have already demonstrated that the more one ascends the succession of causes, the fewer the causes will be until eventually the root of all numbers is reached – this is the true Unity, and this true Unity is the Creator.
Furthermore, it is known that anything which is found in something as an incidental property must also exist in something else as its true essence and cannot be separated from that (something else) without destroying it. For example, hotness, an incidental property of hot water, is the permanent essence in fire. Or, moistness, an incidental property in various objects, is permanent essence in water.
And it is known that anything which is found in an object as an incidental property, that object must have received the incidental property from something else for which that incidental property is in its essence, such as hotness in hot water which is incidental in the water. It was given to the water from fire whose hotness is in its essence. And when we see moisture in moist things as an incidental property, we know that it was transferred to them from water whose wetness is in its essence. Similarly for all things, if we examine their matters.
Through this principle we can direct our words to the matter of unity. Since unity is found in every created thing as an incidental property, as we introduced, it necessarily follows that it must be a true and permanent essence in the Cause of all created things, and from it all created things derived the matter of unity as an incidental property, as we explained.
When we investigated the matter of true (absolute) unity among the created things, we did not find it to be absolute or permanent in any of them. If we try to apply it to any of the sugim (types, i.e. broad category such as animals), minim (kinds, categories of a type such as horses), ishim (individuals, subcategories of kinds such as one individual horse), Etzemim (essence of things), (mikre) incidental properties, planets, stars, spiritual bodies, numbers, numbered objects, (to summarize) anything which is finite and limited, and we try to call it one, and try to ascribe the term “unity” to it – this we cannot correctly do to call it “one” except in a passing (relative) sense. For each of them comprises things which are collectively called “one” due to their similarity and joining together in one respect.
But essentially, each of them is plural, being subject to multitude and change, division and separation, association and dissociation, increase and diminishment, motion and rest, appearance and form, and other incidental properties, whether specific to it or general that belongs to every creation.
Absolute Unity is not found nor truly ascribed in any created thing. And since unity exists among the created things as an incidental property, while all the evidence points to the Creator being One, we will deduce with certainty that the relative unity that we ascribed to any of the created things emanates from the true (absolute) One. And this true (absolute) unity can only be ascribed to the Creator of all. He is the true One. There is no true (absolute) Unity besides Him.
All the implications of absolute Unity we have mentioned befit Him alone. All the matters of plurality, incidental properties, change, motion, comparison, or any qualities which is not consistent with true Unity cannot be ascribed to Him, as David said: “Many, O L-ord my G-d, are Your wonderful works and Your thoughts towards us, there is no comparison to You” (Ps. 40:6), and “To whom then will you liken G-d? Or what likeness will you compare unto Him?” (Isaiah 40:18), and “Among the gods (angels) there is none like unto You, O L-rd; neither are there any works like unto Your works” (Ps. 86:8).
It has been clarified and demonstrated that the Creator of the world is the true Unity and that there is no other true Unity besides Him. For anything which is ascribed the term “one” besides the Creator, is a unity from one aspect but plural from another aspect. But the Creator is one from every respect as we explained. What we have brought in this matter should be sufficient for the intelligent person.
*** CHAPTER 10 ***
Regarding the Divine attributes, whether known from reason or from scripture, which are ascribed to the Creator – the intentions in them are numerous according to the numerous creations and the kindnesses bestowed on them.
They (the Divine attributes) divide into two divisions: Essential (in essence) and Active (i.e. from His deeds).
The reason we call them Essential (in essence) is because they are permanent traits of G-d, belonging to Him before the creations were created, and after their creation these attributes continue to apply to Him and to His glorious essence.
These attributes are three:
1. That He (permanently) exists
2. That He is One
3. That He is Eternal, without beginning.
We ascribe to Him these three attributes and speak of them in order to indicate His Being and true existence, to call attention to His glory, to make human beings understand that they have a Creator whom they are under duty to serve.
We must ascribe to Him “existence”, for His existence is demonstrated by proofs based on the evidence of His handiworks, as written: “Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who has created these things? He that brings out their host by number: He calls them all by name. By the greatness of His might, and for He is strong in power; not one fails” (Isaiah 40:26).
We must necessarily ascribe existence to Him because it is a principle accepted by our reason that for something which is non-existent no action or result can come. Since His works and creations are manifest, His existence is equally manifest to our intellect.
We ascribe to Him Eternity (no beginning), because rational arguments have demonstrated that the world must have a First (cause) which had no previous cause before it and a Beginning which had no prior beginning. It has been demonstrated that the number of causes cannot be infinite. It logically follows, that the Creator is the First Beginning before whom there is no Beginning, and this is what is meant by His Eternity, as written: “From everlasting to everlasting, You are G-d” (Ps. 90:2), and “before Me there was no god formed, neither shall any be after Me” (Isaiah 43:10).
Regarding declaring of Him that He is One, we have already sufficiently demonstrated this by well known arguments and it has been established by clear evidence, that true Unity is inseparable from His glorious essence. This unity implies absence of plurality in His Being, the absence of change, transformation, incident, origin or destruction, joining or removal, comparison or association or any other properties of things that are plural.
It is necessary for you to understand that these attributes do not imply any kind of change in His glorious essence, but only to denote a negation of their opposite. What the attribution of them should convey in our minds is that the Creator of the world is neither plural, nor non-existent, nor created
Likewise it is necessary for you to understand that each one of these three attributes we mentioned implies the other two, when we analyze them. The explanation of this is as follows:
When true Unity is the inseparable and permanent property of a thing, that thing must necessarily also be Eternally Existing (without beginning), since that which is non-existent cannot be ascribed neither unity nor plurality. Hence if true (absolute) Unity is the attribute of any thing and essentially belongs to it, it logically follows that the attribute of Existence with its implications also belongs to it. It must also be Eternal (eternally existing) because true (absolute) unity neither comes into existence nor passes out of existence, neither changes nor is transformed. Hence, it must be Eternal, for it has no beginning. Hence, that which the matter of true Unity belongs has also the attributes of Existence and Eternity.
So too, we say that the attribute of permanent Existence, attributed to a thing, implies the attribution to it of absolute Unity and Eternity (without beginning).
It implies absolute Unity since that which permanently Exists could not have come into existence from nothing, and cannot pass from the state of existence into that of non-existence. Such a thing is not plural since that which is plural is not permanently existent, as it must have been preceded by Unity. Therefore, that which exists permanently is not plural, and is accordingly, One.
The attribute of Eternity (without beginning) also belongs to it, since that which exists permanently has neither beginning nor end, and is accordingly Eternal.
So too, we assert that the attribute of Eternity, belonging to any Being, also implies in that Being, the attributes of absolute Unity and permanent existence.
It implies Unity, since that which is Eternal has no beginning, and that which has no beginning is not plural, since all things plural have a beginning, namely, a (parent) unity. Therefore, that which is plural is not Eternal, and that which is Eternal can only be One. Therefore, the attribute of absolute Unity is implied in the attribute of Eternity.
Likewise, the attribute of existence is implied in that of Eternity. For the non-existent cannot be described as either Eternal or created.
We have clarified that these three attributes are one in meaning and imply the same thing. They do not imply any change in the Creator’s glorious essence, nor do they imply any incidental property or plurality in His being, because all that we are to understand by them is that the Creator is neither non-existent, nor created, nor plural. If we could express His being in a single word which would denote all three of these attributes as they are understood by the intellect so that these three attributes would arise in our mind when the one word was used, we would use that word to express it. But since we do not find such a word in any of the spoken languages which would designate the true conception of G-d, we are forced to express it with more than one word.
This plurality in the Creator’s attributes does not, however, exist in His glorious essence but is due to inadequacy of language on the part of the speaker to express the conception in one term. You must understand that, regarding the Creator, there is none like Him, and whatever attributes we speak of regarding Him, you are to infer from them the denial of their opposite. As Aristotle said “negating attributes of G-d gives a truer conception of Him than affirming attributes”. For all affirmative attributes ascribed to G-d must necessarily ascribe properties of Etzem (essence) or Mikre (incidental properties), and He who created etzem and mikre has not the properties of His creatures in His glorious essence. But the denial of such properties to Him is undoubtedly true and appropriate to Him. For He is above all attributes and forms, similarity or comparison. Therefore, you must understand from these attributes that they refer to the negation of their opposites.
THE ACTIVE ATTRIBUTES
The active attributes of G-d are those which we speak of the Creator with reference to His works. It is possible, when speaking of them, to associate Him with some of His creations. We were permitted, however, to ascribe these attributes to Him because of the forced necessity to acquaint ourselves with, and realize His existence, in order that we assume on ourselves the duty of His service.
We have already found that the Torah and the books of the Prophets extensively use these active attributes, as also in the Psalms of prophets and saints. They are used in two manners:
One, attributes which denote physical form such as in the verse “So G-d created man in His own image, in the image of G-d, He created man” (Gen. 1:27), “for G-d made man in His image” (Gen. 9:6), “by the word of G-d” (Numbers 9:18), “I, even My hands, have stretched out the heavens” (Isaiah 45:12), “in the ears of G-d” (Numbers 11:1), “under His feet” (Ex. 24:10), “the arm of G-d” (Isaiah 51:9), “who has not taken My soul in vain” (Ps. 24:4), “in the eyes of G-d” (Gen. 6:8), “G-d said in His heart” (Gen. 8:21), and other similar verses regarding physical limbs.
Two, attributes which denote bodily movements and actions, as written: “and G-d smelled the pleasing aroma” (Gen. 8:21), “And the L-ord saw…and the L-ord regretted” (Gen. 6:5-6), “and G-d came down” (Gen. 11:5), “and G-d remembered” (ibid 8:1), “and G-d heard” (Numbers 11:1), “Then the L-ord awakened as one out of sleep,” (Ps. 78:65), and many more activities of human beings like these attributed to Him.
Our Rabbis, when expounding the scriptures, paraphrased the expressions used for this class attributes and were careful to render them in an honorable way, and ascribed them all to the “glory of the Creator”. For example, the verse “behold G-d stood over him” (Gen. 28:13), they rendered – “the glory of G-d was present with him”; “and G-d saw” (ibid 6:5), they rendered – “it was revealed before G-d”; “and G-d came down” (ibid 11:5)- “the glory of G-d was revealed”; “and G-d went up” (ibid 35:13) – “the glory of G-d departed from him”.
They rendered everything in a reverential way, and avoided attributing them to the Creator in order not to ascribe to Him any kind of physicality or incidental property.
The great master, Rabeinu Saadia, already expounded sufficiently at length on this in the Sefer Emunot Vedeot, in his commentary on parsha Bereishis, parsha Vaera, and in Sefer Yetzira, and we do not need to repeat his explanations in this book. What we are all agreed upon is that necessity forced us to ascribe physicality and to speak of Him with the attributes of His creations in order that human beings can have some way to grasp the existence of the Creator. The books of the prophets connoted Him with corporeal terms because these are closer to our mind and understanding.
If they had spoken of Him in a more accurate fashion, using words and matters connoting spiritual things, we would not have understood neither the words nor the matters, and it would have been impossible for us to worship something which we do not know, since it is not possible to worship an unknown. Therefore it was necessary that the words and concepts be according to the understanding ability of the listener so that the matter will first be grasped in the listener’s mind in an understandable, corporeal sense from the concrete terms. Afterwards, we will enlighten him and explain to him that all this was only metaphorical, to bring the matter close and that the true matter is too fine, too sublime, too exalted, and too remote from the ability and powers of our mind to grasp. The wise thinker will endeavor to remove the husk of the terms and their corporeality and will ascend in his mind step by step until he will reach the true intended meaning according to the power and ability of his mind to grasp.
The foolish and simple person will conceive the Creator in accordance with the literal sense of the metaphor, and if he assumes the service of His Creator, and he endeavors to labor for His glory, he has in his simpleness and lack of understanding, a great valid excuse because a man is held accountable for his thoughts and deeds only according to his ability, intelligence, understanding, strength, and material means. But if the foolish is capable of learning wisdom and he neglects it – he will be held accountable for it and punished for his lacking and refraining from study.
If the scriptures had employed more accurate, truer terminology, then nobody would have understood it except the wise, understanding reader and most of mankind would have been left without religion and without Torah (guidance) due to their limited intellect and weak understanding in spiritual matters. But the word which may be understood in a material sense will not damage the understanding person because he recognizes its real meaning, and it is at the same time beneficial to the simple person so that it will fix in his heart and mind that there is a Creator which it is his duty to serve.
This is similar to a man who came to visit a friend who was of the wealthy class. His wealthy host felt a duty to provide his friend with a meal and also food for the animals which he brought with him. The wealthy man sent to him an abundant quantity of barley for his animals and a small quantity of food fitting for him but only enough for his need.
So too, the scriptures and the books of the pious abundantly employed material analogies when referring to the attributes of the Creator according to the understanding of the masses and according to the common language which the masses converse. Therefore, when referring to this, our Rabbis said “the Torah speaks like the common language of men” (Bava Metzia 31b). And the scriptures gave few hints of spiritual matters which are intelligible only to the (few) wise and understanding men.
In this way, even though all people have different views of G-d’s glorious essence, nevertheless, all people are equal with regard to knowing the existence of the Creator.
Likewise we will say for all subtle matters found in the Torah such as the reward in the next world or its punishment.
And likewise we will say for the clarification of the inner wisdom (the duties of the heart) which was our intention to clarify in this book. The Torah was very brief in expounding their matters, relying on the intelligent men. The Torah only hinted at it to arouse one on it, such as mentioned in the Introduction of this book, so that anyone who is able to enquire and investigate them will be aroused to do so until he has understood and mastered them as written: “those who seek G-d will understand all things” (Mishlei 28:5).
The prophet (Moshe Rabeinu) has already warned us against thinking that G-d has a form or likeness as written “Take therefore good heed unto yourselves; for you saw no manner of form on the day that the L-ord spoke unto you in Horeb (Sinai) out of the midst of the fire” (Deut. 4:15), and “And the L-ord spoke unto you out of the midst of the fire: you heard the voice of the words, but saw no form; only you heard a voice” (ibid 4:12). When saying “take good heed”, he warned us in our minds and thoughts to not represent the Creator under any form (tavnis) or to conceive Him under the likeness (demus) of anything or any comparison (dimyon) since your eyes never perceived any form or likeness when He spoke to you.
And it is written “To whom will you liken to G-d? What likeness will you compare to Him?” (Isaiah 40:18), and “to Whom will you liken Me that I will be equal to, says the Holy One” (ibid 40:25)
And it is written: “For who in the heaven can be compared unto the L-ord?” (Ps. 89:7), and “Among the mighty ones there is none like You, O L-ord” (Ps. 86:8), and many more like this.
Since it is impossible to form a representation of Him with the intellect or picture Him with the imagination, we find that Scripture ascribes most of its praises to the “Name” of G-d, as written: “And they shall bless Your glorious Name” (Nehemiah 9:5), and “that you may fear this glorious and revered Name” (Deut. 28:58), and “Let them praise Your Name, great and revered” (Ps. 99:3), and “of My Name he was afraid” (Malachi 2:5), and “But unto you that fear My Name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in its wings” (Malachi 3:20), and “Sing unto G-d, sing praises to His Name, extol Him that rides upon the skies, whose Name is the L-ord” (Ps. 68:5).
All this is in order to honor and exalt His glorious essence because, besides clarifying that He exists, it is impossible for us to clarify in our minds anything about His Being except for His great Name.
But as for His glorious essence and His true nature – there is no picture or likeness that we can grasp in our minds. Therefore, His Name is frequently changed in the Torah and likewise in the books of the prophets.
Because we cannot understand anything about Him except for His Name and that He exists. His glorious Name is also associated with heaven and earth and the Spirits, as Abraham said: “And I will make you swear by the L-ord, the G-d of heaven and the G-d of the earth” (Gen. 24:3), and Yonah said: “I fear the L-ord, the G-d of heaven” (1:9), and Moshe said: “the G-d of the spirit of all flesh” (Numbers 27:16). And the verse proclaims: “Behold, I am the L-ord, the G-d of all flesh” (Yirmiya 32:27).
The reason for this is that He is known to us in the way possible through the traditions of our forefathers from whom we have inherited the knowledge of His ways, as written “For I have known him (Abraham), to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of the L-ord, to do righteousness and justice” (Gen. 18:19).
Perhaps, G-d revealed Himself to them because they were the only ones in their generation who took on to serve Him since the people of their generation worshipped other “gods” (idols, sun, moon, money, etc.)
Similarly we will explain for His being called (in scripture) “the G-d of the Hebrews” (Ex. 3:18), “the G-d of Yisrael” (Gen. 33:20), as the verse says “not like these is the portion of Yaakov for He is the Creator of all” (Yirmiya 10:16).
And David said: “O L-ord, the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup” (Ps. 16:5). And if we were able to grasp His true nature, He would not be known to us through other things.
Since it is not possible for our intellects to grasp His true nature, when referring to His glorious essence the scripture describes Him as the G-d of the choicest of His creations, rational or otherwise. Therefore, when Moshe Rabeinu asked G-d “when the Israelites ask me what is His name, what should I answer them?”, G-d answered him: “so shall you say to the descendants of Israel: ‘Ehe-ye’ sent me to you'”. And since G-d knew that the Israelites would not understand the true nature of this name (Ehe-ye), He added an explanation and said: “thus should you say to the Israelites: “The L-ord, the G-d of your forefathers, the G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac, and the G-d of Jacob sent me to you, this… (Ex. 3:15)”.
G-d’s intent (to Moshe) in this was that if the people did not understand these words and their implications through intellectual reason, then tell them that I am known by them through the tradition they received from their ancestors. The Creator did not establish any other way to know Him except through these two ways, namely, (1) that which intellectual reason testifies through the evidence of His deeds which are visible in His creations, (2) and that of ancestral tradition, as scripture says: “Which wise men have told from their fathers, and have not hid it” (Iyov 15:18).
And since our perception of all existing things is through one of three ways:
1. Physical perception, such as through sight, hearing, taste, smell, or touch.
2. Through our reason, by which the existence of something is demonstrated from its indications and effects, until the reality of its existence and nature are established to us as if we perceived it with our physical senses.
This is called in the book of proverbs “understanding and intellectual discipline” (Mishlei 1:2-3).
3. True reports and reliable tradition.
Since it is not possible for us to perceive the Creator through our senses, we can only know Him through true reports or from proofs on Him based on the evidence of His deeds.
And since the proofs drawn from the evidence of His deeds in the creations are established and greatly numerous, therefore the attributes ascribed to Him because of them are also numerous.
The saints and the prophets described His attributes in different ways. Moshe Rabeinu said “The Rock, His work is perfect, for all His ways are justice” (Deut. 32:4), and he also said: “He is G-d of gods, and L-ord of lords, the great G-d, the mighty, and the awesome” (Deut. 10:17), and also “He exacts justice for the fatherless and the widow” (Deut. 10:18). And G-d Himself described His own attributes as written: “And the L-ord passed by before him, and proclaimed: ‘The L-ord, the L-ord, G-d, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy unto the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, etc.'” (Ex. 34:6).
(That G-d possesses) these attributes we see from the evidence of His deeds towards His creations and also from the wisdom and power which His deeds reflect. And if we investigate this matter with our intellect and understanding, we will fail to grasp the smallest of the smallest of part of His attributes, as David said: “Many, O L-ord my G-d, are Your wonderful works which You have done, and Your thoughts which are toward us…” (Ps. 40:6), and “Who can utter the mighty acts of the L-ord? who can show forth all his praise?” (Ps. 106:2), and “And blessed be Your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise” (Nehemiah 9:5). And the Sages said in the Talmud (Berachos 33b):
A certain person led the prayer service before Rabbi Chanina and said: “the great, the mighty, the awesome, the powerful, the glorious, the potent, the feared, the strong, the powerful, the certain, and the esteemed G-d!”. R’ Chanina waited until he finished. When he finished, R’ Chanina said to him: “did you complete all the praises of your Master? What need is there for all of this? even us, these three praises that we say (in the daily prayers), if not for the fact that Moshe Rabeinu said it in the Torah (Deut. 10:17), and the men of the great assembly came and established it in prayer, we wouldn’t be able to say them! And you say all these praises and continue? It is analogous to a king of flesh and blood who had thousands upon thousands of golden coins, and they would praise him for possessing silver coins, isn’t this a disgrace to him”?
And “to You silence is praise” (Ps. 65:2), to which our teachers said: “the best potion is silence, the more you praise a flawless pearl, the more you depreciate it” (Megila 18a).
Therefore, you should exert your mind until you know the Creator through the evidences of His works and not strive to know Him in His glorious essence. For He is exceedingly close to you from the side of His deeds but infinitely remote in any representation of His essence or comparison with it. As already stated, we will never be able to find Him in this way. When you arrive at the stage where you abandon (trying to find Him) through your thoughts and senses because He cannot be grasped in this way, and you instead find Him in the evidence of His deeds, as though He were inseparable from you – this is the pinnacle of knowledge of Him which the prophet exhorts us on in saying “Know therefore this day, and consider it in your heart, that the L-ord He is G-d in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else” (Deut. 4:39).
One of the Sages said: “the more one increases knowledge of the Creator, the more one is awe-struck with regard to His nature”.
Others said: “the truly wise person in the knowledge of G-d realizes his ignorance regarding His glorious essence while the ignorant person thinks that he understands G-d’s glorious essence.”.
One of the Sages was asked on the Creator: “what is He?”. He answered: “One G-d”. The asker then asked: “What is He like?”. He answered “A great King”. He then asked: “Where is He?” He answered: “in the mind”.
The asker: “I did not ask you on this”
The sage answered: “You asked me on attributes which apply to created things, not to the Creator. And the attributes which can be ascribed to the Creator, I replied to you, the reason we ascribe them to Him is) because otherwise it would be impossible for us to know Him.
It is said of one of the Sages who would say in his prayer: “My G-d, where can I find You, yet where can I not find You. You are hidden and invisible yet everything is filled with You, similar to the verse “Do I not fill heaven and earth says the L-ord” (Yirmiya 23:24).
The pinnacle of knowing Him is to reach the stage where you admit and believe that you are completely ignorant of the truth of His glorious essence.
If you form in your mind a picture or representation of the Creator, strive to investigate His Being.
Then you will clarify His existence.
And you will reject any type of likeness of Him, until you will find Him only through the way of reasoning.
The analogy of this:
We realize the truth of existence of the soul without perceiving of it any form or likeness, or appearance or smell, even though its effects are visible and its acts are recognizable in us.
Likewise the intellect whose effects and signs are evident and noticeable, yet the intellect has no form or likeness, nor can we compare it in our thoughts.
And all the more so – the Creator of everything, which there is none like Him. And a philosopher said: “if our efforts to fully know the soul are vain, all the more so for the matter of the Creator”.
Since we have reached until here in our discussion, it is not necessary to proceed further.
The reason being, that it is our duty to be in fear and awe, and to guard from it, as some of the Sages said: “that which is beyond you, do not expound, that which is hidden from you, do not investigate. That which is permitted to you – contemplate. Do not have any business with hidden things” (Ben Sira in Megila 13a).
And our Sages said: “whoever is not concerned for the honor of his Creator it is better for him had he not been created” (Chagiga 11b). And they expounded on the verse “Shall it be told him that I speak? if a man speaks, surely he shall be swallowed up” (Iyov 37:20) – Whoever comes to speak the might of G-d will be destroyed (Talmud Yerushalmi Berachos 9a). And the verse says: “And he struck the men of Beth Shemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the L-ord” (Shmuel 6:19) (who stared at it with coarse hearts, without due awe- PL), and “It is the glory of G-d to conceal a thing” (Mishlei 25:2), which means to conceal His secret from men who are not wise, and “the secret of G-d is with them that fear Him” (Ps. 25:14).
Furthermore regarding the physical senses we mentioned and the mental faculties, namely, memory, thought, imagination, counsel/will, recognition, which all refer to one power, namely, the mind which gives them the ability to apprehend things.
THE PHYSICAL SENSES
Each one of the (physical) senses has a distinct ability to perceive certain types of sensations which the other senses lack. For example, form and color can only be perceived by the sense of sight. Voices and music can only be perceived by the sense of hearing. Scent and various odors – only by the sense of smell. Various tastable things – only by the sense of taste. Hot and cold and many matters of quality – by the sense of touch.
Each sense has a power to perceive its relevant sensation to a definite extent, beyond which it is incapable of perceiving further. For example, sight has the ability to perceive something close by, and the further away one goes, the weaker its ability to apprehend it, until eventually it ceases to apprehend it completely. Likewise for the sense of hearing, and also for the other senses.
And it is impossible to grasp a sensation without the appropriate sense designated for it. One who strives to grasp it with a different sense will fail to accomplish his desire. For example, one who strives to grasp a melody with the sense of sight or visible things with the sense of smell or taste with the sense of touch – he will not be able to find them or grasp them, despite that they exist, because one is trying to perceive them without the limbs designated for perceiving these sensations.
Likewise we will say for the mental faculties we mentioned. Each one of them has a distinct power to perceive a specific thing which the others cannot, and a limit to which it can grasp no further, as we mentioned for the physical senses.
Likewise we will say for the mind (in total) which grasps intellectual things by itself or through proofs. For things that are close to it, it will grasp its truth directly through itself, while for things which are remote and hidden, it will grasp it through building proofs which point to it.
And since the Creator is infinitely remote and hidden for us from the side of His glorious essence, the intellect can grasp only that He exists.
And if it strives to grasp His glorious essence or to imagine Him – even His existence will be hidden to it, because it strove to grasp something beyond its ability, as we mentioned for trying to grasp a sensation with the wrong sense.
Therefore, we must seek the existence of G-d through the evidence of His deeds in the creations – and these will be proofs on Him for us. And when His existence is established for us in this way, we must then cease and not seek to liken Him in our thoughts or to try to represent or figure Him in our imagination, or attempt to apprehend His glorious essence. For, if we do this, thinking we will understand Him more closely – even the realization of His existence will disappear from us, because anything we imagine in our minds will be other than Him. And scripture says: “Have you found honey? eat only as much as is sufficient for you, lest you be filled with it, and vomit it” (Mishlei 25:16).
I saw fitting to try to bring the matter close to you using two illustrations.
The First of the two will demonstrate that each physical sense perceives its class of sensations and then it reaches its limit whereby the next physical sense picks up where it left off. And afterwards, it will also reach its limit and the next sense will start, and so on for all the senses. When they all reach their limit of perception, the intellect will then start to perceive what is in its power to apprehend. This will be demonstrated by means of one object.
Imagine that a stone was thrown far away. It makes a whistling/crashing noise and strikes a man. The man perceived with his sense of sight the appearance of the stone and its form. Then he perceives with his sense of hearing the whistling/crashing noise, then he perceives with his sense of touch the coldness and hardness of it. Afterwards, the physical senses cease to apprehend any more of the stone. Then the intellect perceives that the stone must have had a thrower who threw it, since it is clear to it that the stone did not move from its place by itself.
That which is normally perceived through the physical senses cannot be apprehended by the intellect without the physical senses. And all the more so, that which is normally perceived by the intellect cannot be perceived by the physical senses.
The second illustration will demonstrate that for spiritual matters, once we are convinced of their existence, it is not proper to investigate their nature because this approach only ruins our intellect. This is like one who tries to understand the sun from observing its light, radiance, shine, and its power to dissipate darkness. If he accepts its existence, he will benefit from it, use its light, and attain all that he seeks from it. But one who strives to study its roundness and focuses his eyes to stare at it – his eyes will dim and (eventually) their sight will be lost and he will not benefit from the sun..
The same thing will happen to us. If we study the existence of the Creator from the evidence of His signs in the creations, the wisdom manifested in them, His power shown in all His creations – we will think and we will understand His nature. Then our minds will be illuminated with knowledge of Him and we will attain all that is possible for us to attain, as written “I am the L-ord your G-d who teaches you for your benefit, who leads you by the way that you should go” (Isaiah 48:17).
But if we exert our minds to understand the matter of His glorious essence, and to try to liken or represent Him in our minds – we will ruin/diminish our intellect and understanding, and we will not grasp even what was known to us, as would happen to our eyes if we stared at the sun. We must be careful in this matter, and remember it when we investigate on the matter of the existence of G-d.
Likewise, we must be careful regarding His attributes, whether those which describe His glorious essence or those the prophets ascribe to Him – not to take them literally or according to what would seem in a physical sense.
Rather, we must know clearly that they are in a metaphorical and incidental sense according to what we are capable of grasping with our powers of recognition, understanding, and intellect, due to our crucial need to know Him and His loftiness. But He is infinitely greater and loftier above all of this, and like the verse says “Blessed be Your glorious Name, that is exalted above all blessing and praise” (Nehemiah 9:5).
One of the philosophers said: “He whose mind is too weak to understand the matter of divesting, he holds fast to the terms in the Divinely given scriptures, and does not realize that the terms in scripture are adapted to the intelligence of those to whom they were addressed, not according to (the intelligence) of the One who addressed them. Rather they are like the whistling call to a herd of cattle at the time of water drinking, which brings them to drink far more effectively than clear and accurate words.”
When you master this level of the Unity in your intellect and understanding, devote your soul to the Creator, strive to grasp His existence from (observing) His wisdom, His power, His grace, His mercy, and His abundant providence over His creations. Become pleasing to Him by doing His will. Then you will be among the seekers of G-d (and it is written: “those who seek G-d will understand all” (Mishlei 28:5) – ML), and then you will receive from Him the help and strength to understand Him, and to know His true nature, as David said: “The secret of the L-ord is with them that fear Him; and He will show them His covenant” (Ps. 25:14). I will clarify for you some illustrations in the second gate of this book. When you practice them, and go in their path, the matter will be easier for you with G-d’s help.
The things detrimental to the (wholehearted acceptance of G-d’s) unity are numerous. Among them, to association of other beings with the Creator. This occurs in several ways.
Among them, believing in multiple gods, worshipping forms, the sun, moon, constellations, fire, plants, animals.
Among them, ascribing physicality to the Creator, while understanding the true intent of scripture.
Among them, hidden association, namely trying to find favor with other people with regard to religious matters. This occurs in several ways. I will clarify them in the fifth gate of this book, with G-d’s help.
Among them, turning (excessively) to the physical pleasures. This is subtle association – that a man associates the service of his lusts with the service of the Creator. And the verse says: “There shall not be in you a strange god”, to which our Rabbis expound: “what is the ‘strange god’ which is in the body of a man? – This is the evil inclination” (Talmud Shabbos 105b).
Perhaps the simple and foolish person, when he reads this book and considers what we wrote in this gate will say to himself: “will the matter of unity of G-d be unknown to anyone who reads even one page of the Torah whereby this author needs to stir us and instruct us it?”
I will answer this as the wise man answered: “Answer a fool according to his folly” (Mishlei 26:5). For one who asks this is too weak of understanding to grasp the extent of a universal topic which is addressed to different classes of people. Such a universal topic is grasped differently depending on whether the person understood much of it or little of it, and whether he is of strong intellect or of weak intellect.
The analogy to this – the benefit of the light of the sun which is universal to all men. We find this benefit divides into three classes:
The first class: Those whose eyes are healthy and free from all diseases. They benefit from the sun, use its light, and attain all types of benefit from it.
The second class: The totally blind, whose eyesight is completely lost. The light of the sun does not damage nor benefit them. Their benefit from it is through other people (who guide them).
The third class: People whose eyes are too weak to tolerate the light of the sun, and the sun’s light will damage them if they don’t avoid it. If they hasten to heal their eyes with medications, potions, and therapeutic diets, and at the same time are careful not to expose their eyes to the light of the sun – it is possible that they will become healthy and they will benefit from the sun which was previously damaging to them. But if they delay healing their eyes, they will quickly lose their eyesight completely and belong to the class of the totally blind.
Similarly, the classes of understanding G-d’s unity taught in the Torah divides into three classes. The matter is taught to all rational beings, just like the light of the sun is available to all seeing beings.
The first class: Men of clear intellect and pure understanding.
The second class: Men whose intellect is completely too weak to understand anything of what is written in the Torah.
The third class: Men whose intellect is too weak to grasp what the first class is able to grasp but they have sufficient intelligence to comprehend most of the near and easy matters.
The first class, namely, the men of complete intellect, free from all detriment. When they put to heart to understand what they encountered in the Torah on the matter of the Unity, they will understand it, and its matter will enter their heart through their powerful understanding and pure intellect. They are of those who don’t need this book, except to remind them of what has escaped their attention.
The second class do not know G-d’s Torah, all the more so the matter of Unity in it. They hear its teaching but do not comprehend its matter. They will have neither benefit nor damage from this book.
The third class who understand the matter of the Unity mentioned in G-d’s Torah with some understanding, but they don’t have the intellectual power to understand its matter and realize its true meaning. If a teacher instructs them and makes them understand its matter through the way of true proofs and sound intellectual reasoning – its meaning will become clear to them, and its secret will be revealed to them, and they will reach the level of the first class.
But if they shirk from investigating and are lazy in examining in that which will strengthen their understanding and sharpen their intellect – they will sink to the level of the foolish.
To those of this class, this book will be of great and comprehensive benefit, because they are capable of investigating. It will benefit them just like potions benefit those with weak eyesight, who hope to be healed by their application.
Scripture already compared the foolish man – to a blind man, wisdom – to light, and foolishness – to darkness, in saying: “Then I saw that wisdom excels folly, as far as light excels darkness” (Eccles. 2:13), and “The wise man’s eyes are in his head; but the fool walks in darkness” (Eccles. 2:14), and “Hear, you deaf; and look, you blind, that you may see” (Isaiah 42:18).
And they compared wisdom and mussar – to a tree of life, as written: “It is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon it” (Mishlei 3:18), and “For they are life unto those that find them” (Mishlei 4:22).
May the Almighty teach us the way to the knowledge Him, direct us to His service, and bestow on us His grace, in His mercy and compassion. Amen.
*** TRANSLATOR’S SUMMARY ***
The following is a brief summary of the logical proof of the existence of G-d from the Shaar Yichud according to the translator’s limited understanding. Note that it is impossible to arrive at a water-tight mathematical type proof as the author wrote in his introduction to this book:
Let us begin. By understanding the (theological) proof that G-d must exist, we will automatically get an introduction to G-d. Although it is impossible for us to understand Him directly nevertheless we can at least understand to some small extent what He is not.
Now, the logical proof of G-d is based on three premises
1. A thing cannot make itself.
2. causal chains cannot be infinite in number.
3. Anything composite is not eternally existing.
Regarding the first premise: It is self-evident that something which is totally non-existent cannot do anything. And if it does something, then it is already existing.
If you ask, physicists find particles (quantum fluctuations) which appear and disappear in empty space. Answer: as explained in chapter 5, the particles do not pop out of nowhere. They are consequences and properties of a pre-existing space-time medium governed by pre-existing laws of quantum mechanics. Thus, there are not at all coming from absolutely nothing. See there for more.
Regarding the second premise, causal chains cannot be infinite in number. This means you cannot explain the existence of an egg by saying there is an infinite regress of chicken-egg, chicken-egg, and so on, endlessly.
Another analogy, if we have a room of parallel mirrors with infinite reflections of a human face. You can’t reasonably explain the existence of the faces in the mirror by saying there is no source face and they are all just reflections of each other. In reality, there must exist a source, a real human face otherwise nothing would be reflected in the mirrors.
Hence according to these two premises, to explain the effect of the existence of the universe requires us to conclude that something exists which is eternal (without beginning). Now, the question is what can be eternal?
The third premise states that anything composite cannot be eternal (without beginning). The eternal by definition cannot have anything preceding it. So for example, “dough” needs flour and water to exist, hence “dough” cannot be eternal since its existence depends on the pre-existence of flour and water.
What about something like an electron or a photon or even spacetime? These things are composite in a subtler sense. They are composites of themselves and their “boundaries/limitations/properties”. For example, an electron has position, spin, charge, mass, momentum, energy, etc. Therefore it is a composite of itself and whatever boundaries, limitations or properties were set on it. Hence it is a composite of two matters – 1) its own existence and 2) from the aspect of that which it must have a cause which set its boundaries/properties/limitations. i.e., it has to be a result of a previous “something” that either “made” it or “shaped” it or “defined” it – something which CAUSED its borders/properties, etc. to be what they are.
For example, a video game has certain characters, each one having certain properties, abilities, or position on the screen, etc. These things must have been set by a computer programmer. They cannot just exist eternally, without beginning.
Hence, the only thing that can be Eternal (without beginning) is that which has no properties or limitations in any way. It is completely infinite and boundless in all respects. It has no parts or boundaries. This is a completely different “kind” of existence than anything we are familiar with. Anything else which has some sort of limitation or property cannot be eternal.
This automatically rules out anything physical or more than one Eternal (since then each supposed Eternal would be limited in some sense and therefore automatically could not be eternal) and leaves only the One G-d. He is One in an absolute sense.
Obviously, we have no way whatsoever of comprehending such an infinite existence, but we can know for sure that the Eternal must exist otherwise we would not be here. By studying the world with this outlook, we can learn about the Eternal.
Once this is clear, it follows that prophecy is necessary for Him to tell us what this is all about and this leads us to the first and foremost book on prophecy – the torah. (see torah authenticity at dafyomireview.com/430 for much more on this).
Here’s a quote from the Pas Lechem commentary in ch.7 which summarizes this.
To summarize, G-d is the “muchrach hametziut” (the necessary existence), and that which is the necessary existence IS the Existence itself (Rabbi Moshe Shapiro).